Riomaggiore, in the Cinque Terre – “It’s a bit over rated really”

Riomaggiore, Italy, street view

Cinque Terre literally means “five lands”. No flashy bragging names, just five pretty seaside villages perched precariously along the rocky coastline of Northern Italy.  From a distance they look like a handful of partially licked skittles being thrown down a steep hill, just waiting to plummet into the Mediterranean sea. But, many of these buildings have been in situ for more than a hundred years, despite being buffeted by many a storm and earthquake, so who am I to question their sustainability?

I jumped up and down in various places, and nothing fell off, so I think they’re good.

Riomaggiore, Italy, street view

What keeps the villages of the Cinque Terre modest in comparison to other Italian tourist attractions, is the lack of arterial routes for ingress. There are no accessible roads that will take you into the towns, and very little space to drive if you could carkore (like parkour but with a small car. Yes I just made that up) your way in through the grape vines and fat Americans.

To visit the bathroom I am rating in this colourful wee village, you will need to take a train from La Spezia (a gorgeous port town in the Ligurian province which was a highlight of our trip) along the Cinque Terre train route, or walk the hugely popular tracks along the hills, looking out over the Mediterranean Ocean. It really is gorgeous, when you husband stops complaining about the heat, the sun, and the number of people also doing the walk (this is Europe you fool!! Did you think it would be as empty as Piha?).

The public toilets we came across in Riomaggiore were perched about halfway up the main drag, with scattered shops winding up the hill through the pastel coloured apartments.

Riomaggiore, toilet exterior view

While similar in material and basic structure to the one I rated in Point Chevalier, this little stucco shed shared no other similarities beyond their basic use as a place for people wandering about the world in a very privileged fashion, to release the much needed dump they have been building up all morning, since that very strong coffee they had with breakfast. Sultana Bran before a big walk? That was a dire mistake my friend.

Riomaggiore, toilet exterior, sign

Most of the time, in Europe but very often in Italy, if you want a toilet you need to look out for this sign. All tourist areas will try to cater for the multitude of languages spoken by their visitors but if you tried to write “toilet” in every language, you’d have a fucking huge sign and many people would piss their pants. If you didn’t know, “W.C” or water closet is an old fashioned term for a loo. Still in use in countries where the signs may have been first erected 150 years ago and very little has changed since (That was a facetious line. Obviously I don’t think this sign is 150 years old, give me a fucking break).

Riomaggiore, toilet exterior, sign

In Italian a toilet is gabinetto, but they frequently use toilette, which is more like a restroom, and quite handy for English speakers.

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, toilet

Almost all bathrooms in heavily used places in European cities will have attendants. These are usually older ladies who don’t always advertise a price but expect you to hand over some cash for access beyond their deck chair barrier. I was lucky on this day as the attendant appeared to have go off for lunch, or a nap, or just didn’t fancy working that day. Her seat was left empty the whole time I was visiting and I got to pee and photograph the place for free.

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, attendant's chair

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, paper holder

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, sink


Riomaggiore, toilet interior, toilet paper dispenser

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, toilet

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, hand written sign

I’m guessing this sign is referring to plastic bags for sanitary products but, there were no bags available or sanitary bins. I’m guessing you’d just have to chuck it in the regular bin, which honestly would be pretty rank during the very hot Italian summer.

Monterosso, Italy, beach view

After our walk along the hills, followed by a gelato in the sunshine, Josh and I sat on this beach and played cribbage while I got very angry people spotting and watching dickheads drop litter. The beach may appear to be sand but it is in fact small smooth marble pebbles, which kind of glisten in an opaque off-white fashion. It was here, after the dip in the cold, blue, tranquil Mediterranean that Josh said “Well, it’s a bit over rated really isn’t it?”. It may be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covered in the remnants of one of the most sort after building materials of the last 600+ years (Carrara, where the marble comes from, is just up the line) but to my husband, it’s nothing compared to the deep dark green of the Waitakere Ranges or Bethells Beach on a summers day.  It took me a while to explain how spoilt we are as New Zealanders, and that this may not be his idea of paradise, but compared to a housing estate in Slough surrounded by nothing but grey skies and empty K cider cans, this place appears to be the land of Zeus himself (Yes, I’ve met clever people in England, but I’ve also met many who will never know that Zeus is not the King of Italy from history times. Yes, that was a mean, snarky joke about stupid English white trash people. No, none of them are likely to read this blog).

Riomaggiore, toilet interior, over full waste paper bin



Cleanliness :  5/10  These bathrooms are never what you’d call properly clean. Someone has gone over the floor with one of those disposable swiper things at the start of the day and maybe had a wipe around the sink,but as you can clearly see the ingrained dirt is never addressed. It didn’t smell bad, which was nice so they still get a few points despite over flowing bins and muddy foot/hand prints every where.

Interior :  5/10  I’m not a fan of pay toilets, but not for the reason you’d first think. I have no issue paying for the loo, especially if that money pays someone to keep the toilet in nice clean working order. I’m not a fan of having to pass a person (who may be judging me) when coming in and out of the loo. I don’t like the idea that my anxiety will latch on to the fact that, if I need to go back into the loo a few times I will either have to pay again (fine with a machine, but scary if it’s a human) explain my issues or lie and say something less complicated and more socially acceptable such as “Oh dear, I have such terrible morning sickness” to which everyone goes “Awwwww, pregnant lady!” and let you do what ever the fuck you want, how ever weird. And though, due to my rotund present condition, or lack of condition, I could totally pass as anything up to about 6 months pregnant if required, I just really hate lying. I’ll do it, but only if I’m really struggling and need to calm the stupid Bruce voice in my head that tells me that I must be honest in all things or feels guilt about adding to the stigma of mental health issues rather than taking the time to explain to the strange man at the desk in front of me, who may or may not be a little drunk, that I have a real condition that makes me panic but also need to shit sometimes. In this situation, the lady wasn’t there and I was feeling fine, if not hot and tired, but two toilets may be problematic if it had been busier.

Exterior :  7/10  The view is stunning and the access to this loo is very easy, not gates or turnstiles. The W.C is a few minutes walk up the hill from the train station and the port so if you were desperate you’d have to hope your ill equipped thigh muscles held out long enough to get you there without assistance.

Safety :  6/10  Italy isn’t the best place to leave your bag unattended. The fear of getting pick-pocketed is ever present, but these little villages felt safer than most (I’m looking accusingly at you Naples, you gross scab hole). If you were to ask a nice looking stranger to watch your luggage while to visited the little girls room, you’d have a pretty good chance of coming back to your luggage, still present and unmolested. This area of Italy is lucky enough to have a more stable economy than some others and less mass homelessness. Poor ol’ Italy has had a hard time. Even though she’s trying her best to maintain an attractive well put together exterior, she may be heading for a Greece style melt down sooner than first expected.

Snugglitude :  7/10  The day we spent training about this region was lovely. I also have great memories of the last time I visited the Cinque Terre with my family in 2003 ish, so just the thought of these sweet, semi-parochial villages makes me smile. We came across this toilet at the end of the day, on our way back to LaSpezia where we had a late afternoon nap. Visiting beautiful things, followed by a shower, snack foods, then a nap, that’s pretty much a perfect day for me. So, even with the above faults, I found this facility unexpected and quaint.

Total : 30/50

Riomaggiore, Italy, hill view



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