Monday 2 February 2009

Australia vs Italy: Toilet wars

If someone was to ask me the best thing about Australia and the worst thing about Italy - the answer would be the same thing.

Public toilets.

Yes, I know there are many more deep issues I could concentrate on, but I am a lady who goes to the toilet all the time so for me, this is an important topic.

In Italy, the toilets as a whole are a filthy, dirty, smelly room with no toilet seat, never ever any toilet paper, pee all over the floors and most of the time no soap to wash your hands. And this ladies and gentlemen is not those public toilets at the train stations (which you expect to be a bit vile) but in some of the best bars and restaurants in Italy.

Picture this: a cocktail bar which sits a across the road and a level above the Colosseum. You can sit out on the terrace, drink a chilled cosmopolitan and think 'this is the life.' Until you go to the toilet and almost pass out from the retched stench. The floors are covered in grates so your heels get stuck in the pee fill holes, you don't want to touch the dirty toilet bowl, but then you don't want to touch the walls either...oh and there you have it - no toilet paper so you have to search around in your handbag in the semi-dark for a tissue.

Ok, you think, this is a way for them to get back at the drunk tourists...fair enough. So picture this. A large shopping complex in Cosenza, Calabria. You have a great variety of shops, no tourist unless they were seriously lost would find themselves here and you have...well no one really but locals. There may be no grates on the floor, and this time they do have soap to wash your hands but the staff seem to use the public bathrooms as a smoking lounge, the flush doesn't work unless you like me have learnt to push it in a particular fashion, and god forbid they should have toilet It seems that it is against the law to have toilet paper in Italian toilets.

Then we have Australia (or Melbourne in this case.) Music often fills the public toilets in shopping centres, the cubicles are large, clean, oh and is that a full roll of clean toilet paper I see? The toilet seat looks crystal clean, the floor is spot less and the soap is a plenty.

Note to all: In Italy carry a packet of tissues with you at all times. In Australia just go to the toilet even if you don't have to as it is such a pleasant experience!


Piccola said...

This post made me laugh! It's so true. I remember before I went to Italy for this first time, I did squats for 4 months straight because I knew I was going to have to have good squatting skills there and I am so glad I did!! I also carried baby wipes with me everywhere. They sure did come in handy!

Rosa said...

You've made me squeamish. I DON'T go in public in Italy - just hold on and drink less. France is just as bad.
The things we took for granted in Australia, huh?

Jewel said...

Oh if you like toilets in Melbourne then you'd love the public toilets in Tasmania. My mum laughed at me for taking a photo of a public toilet in a park but it was so pristine, no graffiti, toilet seats and so clean. It seems everyone who has travelled has a bad toilet experience.

Bitter Chocolate said...

This post also reminded me that some toilets in Italy seem to be very narrow. I remember being in San Remo with my parents a few years back and the toilet in our hotel was so narrow I actually had to sit on it sideways, cursing Italians for being so thin whenever I had to go to the toilet :D

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Piccola,
Baby wipes are a great idea...I always meant to buy some but never got around to it. When I get back there I am going to make sure they are in my handbag subito!

Hi Scintilla,
You do take some things for granted...such as the simple toilet. I remember Spain was also quite bad...must be these Europeans who have a problem with cleaning toilets.

Hi Jewel,
I do not think there is anything strange about taking a photo of a lovely toilet!

Hi BC,
I know what you mean about narrow toilets. Some are so small there is not enough room to move.

Tania said...


I've been reading your blog for a little while now and this post made me laugh ALOT!!! Im from Sydney and making the move to bel italia in April (have an italian background also) and am dreading the toilet experience molto!!


Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Tania,
Congrats on making the move to Italy! Where are you headed exactly? All the best and don't forget to bring tissues when you finally make the move over.

Tania said...

hi Leanne,
yes i won't forget the tissues or the wipes!!
Im heading to Salerno first (in April) to study the language for 2 months, then probably do a bit of travelling (go and see family) then hopefully settle in Rome and try and find some work!!! Hopefully all goes to plan and I can even find a job hahaha

Monika said...

I have to agree with you Leanne. I almost NEVER go to the public toilets and would only go if I was dying. One exception to this are the roadhouses on the autostrada. Some of them have a person sitting there that cleans after each time someone uses the toilet.
Oh and the worst are the toilets in Pisa airport!

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Tania,
Good luck with the job hunting. Rome is a good place to start.

Hi Mon,
You are right, some of the Autogrill stops are ok...but as for the Pisa airport, luckily I have not yet encounted that one!

Jone said...

Hi Leanne, I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and this one I can really relate to. The thing that I don't get is that Italians are sooooo fanatical about their own houses being spotless but they don't seem to care about their environment i.e. parks, public toilets, playgrounds etc. I'm from Sydney and moved to Italy 10 years ago to the Amalfi Coast, I just couldn't get over the litter and the garbage everywhere, I don't remember it being this bad up in Northern Italy, what's it like where you are in Calabria?

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Jone,
I know what you mean about them being clean freaks in their own homes but use the ground as a public garbage can outside! In Calabria it was rather cleans in parts since it is not so touristy...but still they could do a lot better.

Laura said...

Ciao Leanne!
Amen to the toilet situation in Italy! You made me laugh with this post. I am a reader of your blog, but this is the first time I have left a comment. So first I want to say ciao! I am an American, but now am living on the Amalfi Coast in Campania. Just the other day a friend asked me what I missed most about America, and half jokingly I said... the clean toilets! It is just terrible here, and tissues are indeed a must. I hope you are having a lovely time in Australia. Thanks for posting the information about the fires. I have been thinking about you as I watched the news recently.
Safe travels!

Leanne was in Italy now in Australia said...

Hi Laura,
Thanks for coming out of the shadows and leaving a message :)
And the toilet situation in Italy is not to be taken lightly...they really are just so bad!

Kataroma said...

This is a great post! :)

It's all kinda funny if the toilet in a bar or park is disgusting but I just got out of a Roman public hospital where I had major surgery and (you guessed it!) to shared (18 people 1 toilet) toilets were filthy and there was usually no soap and sometimes no toilet paper. In a hospital that can kill you. :(

I've never been in the hospital in Australia but I assume that the toilets are cleaned often unlike here.

Cloud-Seven said...


Loved your Blog.

What you described about Italy Public toilet amused me. First because there is another Australian Girl Sharell in India who writes a Blog on India and more or less have same views on Indian toilet and bathroom.

Now I come to think of it as a past connection between Italy and India. Somebody has rightly said - Italians are Indians of Europe.

In my tour of Rome, Venice and Milan, I hardly used any public toilets. But the ones in hotels wer ok...