You know that sooner or later you will need to use a public restroom in Italy. And you are in for a treat. No country that I have ever visited has such variety when it comes to the WC. There are pay toilets in places like train stations, which are often “manned” by a woman who collects the nominal fee charged to use the facility and portions out a square or two of tissue.
Typically, the biggest problem is that you can never find a public toilet when you need one. A helpful tip: go to the nearest bar, order a glass of acqua minerale, con or senza gas, or a cappuccino and then ask, “Dove si trova il bagno? If you happen to be in a museum, you will typically have the chance to use a public restroom for free.
Large department stores like Upim and Rinascente will often have toilets on the top floor for their customers to use. Other stores not so much. Gas stations sometimes yes but often times no. There are no public libraries or shopping malls with facilities. Opera houses and other concert venues will have facilities. If you are brave, enter a posh hotel, act like you know where you are going, and head to the back of the foyer, by the elevators, and you often will find a restroom.
One of my all-time most memorable toilets was what the Italians refer to as alla turca, a hole in the pavement with two places to place your feet. This is pretty uncommon, but it is still possible to find then in out of the way bars or cafés.
The fun thing about Italy is that it has countless ways of flushing: pulling a cord or chain, stepping on a rubber mat, pushing a button on the wall or mirror, or flicking a lever. Sometimes the hardest thing is trying to find where one flushes the toilet.
A few individuals like to demonstrate their literary prowess in the bathroom. One of my all-time favorites was a written description in Italian that went something like this, “that which you see in front of you is not a fire, and that which you hold is not a fire hose, so take care, aim carefully, and remember this is not a conflagration to be extinguished by you.”