Christmas in Northern Italy, idyllic get away or an opportunity to spend more time looking at toilets?
Italy is beautiful FACT (yes that was me shouting in your face). There is no getting away from it. Every travel magazine or website from here to kingdom-cum is filled with images of Roman cafes or Tuscan villas, set against flowing fields, archaic stone cottages and the gentle sun like the caresses of a toy-boy lover (possibly one belonging to Madonna or Demi Moore). People write all the time about the romance that exudes from the stone work and drips from the nose of every model-esque looking man who offers you a hand up out of a gondola. The wine, ohh the wine and cheese, so much romantic stinky cheese. However I have never been much one for clichés so I will instead write about the physical requirements of we travellers in the face of Italian public traditions and personal fancies.
Italians are the quintessence of style but when it comes to public facilities they seem to be stuck in times of yore, possibly by choice or due to the *ahem* economic down turn. In the ol’ boot the average public toilet has missed the British/American style and harkens back to a time when squatting over a hole in the ground was tres chic. The trend leans in the direction of the squatty or half squatty. Perhaps in the hopes that Italians, other Europeans and Asians may boast the strongest and most muscular thighs in all the world.
If you are yet to experience the joys of a squatting toilet I shall elucidate. The receptacle consists of a plastic plate, shaped by the fires of hell to accommodate the foot placement of man or beast (really just man though because most beasts find it hard to open doors, due to the lack of opposable thumbs) On arrival the black hole at the centre of the plate stared at you like the eye of Sauron, dark, terrifying and filled with the screams of those before you. The Sasquatch sized foot prints on either side are ribbed for everyone’s pleasure and surrounded by a small moat to catch the excess or ill aimed piss. The eternal joys of watching your extra wees mill around your feet after wiping, oh such fun!
The half squatty is alike in shape to the British style but only 20 odd centimetres off the ground, has no seat and a very wide bowl for post excretion inspections. Not quite as awkward as the full squatty but still offering a plethora of unpleasant experience.
In the films or ‘flicks’ they neglect to show the full extent of the Italian experience, I could be wrong but I don’t recall Ryan Gosling or Julia Roberts having to stop in a hurry due to a bout of travel diarrhoea and coming face-to-face with a plastic covered hole in the ground.
So a list, that is what is needed. A list of the possible positives relating to the squat toilet followed by a list of all the people who may be negatively affected when faced with a European toilet receptacle.
(So called) Positives
They say that the angle you make with your body is very good for bowel movement and health. In my over opinionated opinion this is hippy bullshit. I like to relax and ponder the world when I use the loo, I don’t want to be worrying about my balance like a 16 year old drunk needing to pee in an alley way up the road from a house party.
Ease of cleaning for the proprietor. They can just hose it down like a horse stall or medical ward.
Great for circus folk who need a new balancing challenge.
That’s pretty much it for ones I can think of….
Negatives (people who squatties are not so good for)
Anyone with a disability
People who have missing or malformed legs (I know that’s a disability but it really would be hard with one leg, think about it, seriously. Mental pictures)
People who have had surgery on their man/lady bits and now kind of spray all about the place. Without a bowl to catch and angle the waste it may very well end up on your shoes.
People who have ‘It’ movie phobias of things in the sewers such as crazy clowns. There has to be someone who has nightmares about a blood covered clown hand poppin’ through the hole in the floor to grab at your knackers when you’re in the midst of your business.
Wizards. You wouldn’t want to get your cape all dragging on the piss rim around the edges, then you’d have a pissy cape and none of the other wizards would respect you.
People with weak thigh muscles.
Pregnant ladies with sore ankles/bad balance or holding a baby. It would be hard to sit on the loo and do number 2’s with a baby on your lap (don’t pretend you don’t do that mums with young kids because I KNOW you do) if you have no lap to sit them on.
Old people who also have bad balance and sore legs. Also if you’re old and have problems leaning down or squatting and you fall, you will fall in your own wees and other peoples left over wees and that would just be horrible and ruin your shopping trip all together.
Girls/cross dressers wearing high heels. You couldn’t keep yourself up right on the grid things if you have stilettos on, like balancing on a cow grid while trying not to dribble on your leg.
Men with one eye. Depth perception is hard when it’s further away from your face and the hole is a lot smaller.
Ladies in spanx. Those things constrict your legs like crazy and trying to pull them down to pee is hard enough without the balancing brought into the mix.
That was my experience of the Italians public toilet receptacles, in private it seems they aim for a higher level of luxury, warm wet luxury.
Fancy a light jet of warm water dribbling down your bum to save on excessive wiping? Followed by Silvio Berlusconi blowing lightly on your buttocks until dry? The former is possible on a large scale across the homes of Italy, the latter only if you happen to be a 15 year old escort.
Perhaps you are an eco-warrior and you want to save rain forests by using less paper or you just really like the feeling of water squirting up your bottom?
The bidet is a private experience, for in-home luxury, associated with home comforts and full body ablutions. Like the wine you get in a juice box at the train station supermarkets in Rome, a bidet in a cheapish B&B feels like an awesome pinch of luxury when you really weren’t expecting one. Our basic room came with shower, sink, toilet and bidet as though the need to wash your botty was as vital as the daily cleaning of your lady garden or brushing your teeth. The four required water supplies are for; flush away waste, washing your body, washing your hands/face/teeth and to wash your bottom/vag/wang. It seems to me that the Italians see the warm-water-bottom-cleaner as a necessity rather than a luxury. On arrival at said B&B my 10 year old nephew nailed it in his own sort of way by exclaiming “they have two sinks!! A big sink and a little sink!” Nearly right Jake, but the little one isn’t for your hands….
I have to admit that in spite of my 3-4 trips to Italy and various surrounding countries, I have never used a bidet. Not out of disgust or repulsion by only out of laziness and/or need for haste. I have not been in a situation where I feel at liberty to relax and wash away my cares (in the anal region)
We will see if tonight, my final night in Italy, I will try out the bidet for myself….