Italian Toilets, or Going to the Bathroom in Rome

I am sorry, but we really have to talk about the state of Rome’s toilets.  I know I usually post some pretty photos of the Eternal City, but you will have to bear with me for this post.


Because what the what is going on here?? How are all the bathrooms in Rome this terrible?

smiling toilet

It is like people purposefully rip off the seats.


Oh, and do not get me started on bidets in public restrooms. The first time I saw one at my university in Rome, I lost it. Who would want to use a PUBLIC BIDET?

Rome bathroom

The whole situation makes going to the bathroom when you are out exploring Rome is truly a harrowing experience.  You never know what you are going to find behind Door Number 1.

98% of the time, there will be no seat. 75% of the time there will be no toilet paper.

Rome toilets

Then comes the true fun of figuring out how to flush the thing.  Button on the wall? Button on the floor? Chain pulley from the ceiling? Plunger on top of the water tank?

And I thought Italian plugs were confusing

Fiumicino airport toilet


So what are my pro tips for a pleasant pee in Rome if you are out all day sightseeing and hydrating?

1. Walk into the first luxury hotel you see like a boss.  Your best bet is to pass for guest and bee line for the bathroom that they always have on the ground floor.  However, if you can’t easily spot it, casually ask where their hotel bar is, like you just need a cappuccino or a glass of wine.  The bathroom will either be back at the bar, or you can ask the barman.

2. When all else fails, McDonald’s.  For God’s sake, do not order food there. Just use the facilities and the free wifi as necessary. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

57 thoughts on “Italian Toilets, or Going to the Bathroom in Rome

  1. Pingback: A Weekend in Nice, France – An American in Rome

    • Terri Lee says:

      Natalie, as usual, you are spot on! I am bringing 3 girlfriends to Rome at the end of May and had to warn them about the bathroom situation. I cannot figure out why they let this happen. I mean, they have to use those same bathrooms, right? I am now a seasoned Rome vet and have no problem using the toilets in hotels. I’ve yet to be stopped. And don’t worry, we won’t be eating at the golden arches.

      • Bernie says:

        I think Italians walk around with shit in their pants. Dirty and disgusting, went to Rome Naples Sicily Milan all the same. It gives a whole new experience when eating their food.

        • John Santilli says:

          Bernie , I have to come to the defence of Italians. It’s the tourists who are at fault here. Go to any Italian home and it knocks spots of homes I have seen in other countries. They also have an aplyance that Italians think other countries people are mad not to have. The bidet. When cleaning their back side they don’t just use toilet paper that helps spear the feces around the skin but they use soap and water. I have been to many English homes and found this very necessary appliance missing . Which country is the Pot or the kettle? I still not sure

      • John Santilli says:

        Do you know how much money the Vatican makes at its museum? Anyone making that kind of money would also serve you a golden seat on their toilets.

    • Natalie says:

      My friend Livia made the same point! I think to me, I expect these to be bad. Whereas when I am at a nice place and I walk into the toilet for a surprise.. the shock is stronger. I still stand by the hotel tip!

        • Annie Harmon says:

          Sharon, I get that no one likes hearing unpleasant things about their country. So you lash out, okay. But you also must know that every country has flaws, just like every human, and those are the things we should make a goal of working on. I, personally, am a LOUD talker. I have been approached by strangers who politely reproach me for this quality. And if I ever have any hope of becoming a better person (I’m a great person right now, but better is always the goal) I need to hear them without getting my feeling hurt. It’s a goal to work on. And trust me, Italian toilets are a thing Italy needs to work on. that and in the southern regions, the bags of trash thrown onto the roads. But, That doesn’t mean other countries don’t appreciate the wonderful things Italy has to offer. Things no other country could compete with. You have an amazing country; no one would deny that.

  2. Stan CarVoyager says:

    Great article! The topic is so fresh (no jokes) and original.
    Bad condition of the bathrooms is very common in such densely populated cities like Rome, which is also extremely popular among tourists.
    However, the situation with bathroom, for example, In Asia is even worse – sometimes it’s impossible to find a bathroom in acceptable condition.
    Also, the trick with McDonald’s/Burger King etc. doesn’t work there (in China, for sure) – there are no toilets in fast food restaurants.

    • Danilo says:

      Julia actually the restrooms in Termini station are all supervised by cleaning staff you pay 0.70€ or 1 € and they are all clean so there are not like the toilette that you find in a public bar or fast food! You were lucky!

  3. Orcagna says:

    I haven’t been there in some time, but there used to be a tiny bathroom just off the sacrestia in Il Gesù. It was old but very clean and fully functional, including paper. Trust the Jesuits to come up with a pragmatic solution…

  4. Crystal says:

    Someone told me that one of the reasons that the toilet situation is so bad is because Asian tourists stand on them to squat and that breaks the seats really quickly. But if that’s the case, why isn’t there the same problem in so many other cities?

    • Natalie says:

      I really really think this is hometown situation. It has to do with the idea of what is clean, and toilet seats are classified as ‘not clean’ so they remove them…

    • Sandy Gardner says:

      This is a problem in many other heavily trafficked tourist area to the point of signs mow appearing which have a stick figure and warnings mot to stand on toilet seats. They made me laugh when I first started seeing them in the UK.

  5. Pingback: Things That are Weird in America after living in Italy for 6 years – An American in Rome

  6. Andriana says:

    I live in Sicily and often encounter public or restroom toilets without toilet seats! It’s so annoying, I had never heard that it could be because of Asian tourists standing on them and breaking them. Is that really why they aren’t there??

      • Miguel Palacios says:

        No- i lived with a man from Taiwan, i kept finding foot prints on the toilet seat and was bewildered until i realized he was standing on the seat. full weight on an adult will break most seats.

  7. J Chrisrina says:

    In my travels I’ve found pretty awful bathroom facilities too. In my day pack I keep some emergency bathroom supplies in a zip lock bag. You can find travel size items like seat covers, mini/individual packs of TP online (useful if there’s even a seat). Like you, I hit the good hotels.

  8. Fabio says:

    As a man there is an added layer, the fact that few seem to be able to point their little thing at the right direction. I have been asking myself many times how that happens and how to improve. Maybe we should all start including the toilet situation in our reviews of a place ? Maybe you Natalie want to start with a 0-10 scale, at the end of the restaurant article ? 🙂 don’t know…just a way to push owners make it better.

  9. Bridget says:

    Just returned from a month of travel in Italy. The best tip I can offer is that you buy toilet seat covers and take them with you. AAA has them in packs of 10. Amazon probably has them also. I felt like a pretty savvy traveler when I encountered my first Italian toilet that had no seat at all as I whipped out a travel seat cover and put it directly on the toilet. I felt a bit foolish when I bought them, but in country I quickly changed my mind. Hope this helps someone.

  10. Gino says:

    I think this is a world problem. I have been to many toilets all over the world in OECD G8, rich countries and other countries. It really depends where you go.
    In Japan, South Korea I came across some shocking toilets in remote or poorer areas, but mostly found very clean toilets with cleaning ladies in them. some had no paper many did in tourist areas, museums, buildings etc.. outside public toilets its really hit or miss..
    thailand too! the land of malls! plenty of malls in thailand to find a toilet.
    Australia, New Zealand, USA, again its hit or miss.
    now.. why do some toilets have broken seats? I dont think because asians break them.
    a seat wouldnt break by standing on it, because under the seat is a base. and that picture above has a seat made out of cork, not plastic, I think the reasons many toilets are damaged is because of drunken, drugged up, and hooligans who just deliberately smash them! like graffiti all over the cities. its done by stupid idiots.
    We cant have toilet paper in toilets because some poor bastard will steal them all. steal all the soap and towels..
    its a shame really..
    Because going to the toilet is of of the most important human needs and countries, societies, towns just leave it in these horrible 3rd world conditions.

  11. Lauren says:

    I’ve only been in Rome for 3 weeks and have several toilet pictures already also. The worst is that you have to pay .60 euros for the bathroom at the bus station at Tiburtina and I’m not even sure how to use it.. it was basically a hole in the floor.

    • Jackie says:

      It’s actually healthier and better for you to squat instead of sitting to clear your bowel. When you squat the anorectal angle widens which allows the stool to pass through smoothly. When you squat you spend less time on the toilet than you would in a sitting position and there is less abdominal strain.

    • different-time-zone says:

      “A hole in the floor” is just a very simplified description of it. It could be described as a super flat porcelain toilet close to the floor. In the past, it was the preferred type of public toilet for reasons of hygiene. It may not put you in a comfortable position, but you avoid skin contact with any surface.

  12. Camille says:

    The last time I was in Rome, 16yrs ago there was NOT this missing or broken toilet seat issue! Now I’m here again, and it’s EVERYWHERE!!! What has changed? Makes it really hard to use a toilet after walking all day on cobblestones streets and all you want to do is sit for a few minutes to go!

  13. Edit says:

    I have also seen many toilets with a sign or a pictogram asking people not to flush toilet paper. During my 2019 visit to the Colosseum, the women’s restroom had a basket full of urine soaked toilet paper. Why, why, why? Why can’t an advanced, western nation install working toilets at a top tier historical site?

    • Catherine says:

      I am from Canada and I’m travelling in Italy for a few weeks. Most of the time i’ve been using my hotel restroom… But after a few days I realized that besides my hotel, the toilet seats have all disappeared…
      And I’m not talking about the missing paper too! I don’t understand why they don’t fix this sanitary problem! Thanks for the luxury hotel tip! Definitely going to use it ! 🙂

    • different-time-zone says:

      The pictograms were asking ladies not to flush any TAMPONS in the toilet!
      Why can’t a tourist from an advanced western nation understand pictograms properly?

    • Celine says:

      I suspect it’s because the plumbing is ancient (literally) and the paper just plugs it up. It seems a bit gross, but it makes sense also in terms of water treatment?

  14. Mark Hinshaw says:

    In my various travels I’ve certainly experienced my share of dirty, broken, or disagreeable public toilets.
    However, I would like to report some positive recent experiences.

    In the larger train stations along the east coastal region, between Pescara and Padua there are relatively new pay toilet stations. They are well-maintained, monitored by a live person, and have clean stalls with seats on the toilets. They cost 1 € to use but they are very much worth it.

    I also discovered that some cafes in or near stations have clean and fully usable restrooms. For a euro, you get both a coffee and use of the restroom.

    I have also found decent restrooms inside museums. Again, you pay for admission but you also get some culture.

  15. Lewis Griswold, California says:

    Hey Natalie, keep up the good work. You’ve touched on a subject that affects everyone! Lots of interesting comments.

  16. Paula says:

    What a relief to see that’s not only me wondering about the poor bathroom standards in Rome. – I’d like to add that 80% of the toilet doors have none or broken locks, even in restaurants, so often it’s quite a task to keep some sort of privacy while using the toilet. –
    Also, who invented these buttons on the wall to flush? You almost break your thumb to push it, then – nothing. You push again, and again – and if you’re lucky, eventually some water comes. If you happen to need a second flush, be prepared to get a sore thumb spending another 3 minutes in the bathroom trying to get some more water to flow.
    This button in the wall technology is very common also in private bathrooms, and it can be very embarrassing if you have to leave your things behind for others because the flush doesn’t do its job – or needs ages to do it. I always wondered how a family of 5 would deal with this on a daily basis.

  17. Anne C Reilly says:

    When my sister and I have been in Italy, we had a good many laughs over the ways to flush.
    We often joked that figuring it our will keep us from getting Alzheimer’s. And the same goes for washing hands. Every sink seems to have a different way to turn the water on!
    Since luxury hotels and McDonald’s are not always where you need them, so be sure to have at least, a pack of tissues along. And keep a sense of humor.

  18. TOM says:

    Just for balance here, I had two VERY GOOD experiences using toilets in the “seated mode” in Rome. Toilets in the Vatican Museum and at the Rome airport were VERY CLEAN and comfortable on my trips there.

  19. Cecil says:

    In Naples, I encountered a public restroom that consisted of two raised footpads and a hole in the floor. Glad I only had to pee… I have no idea how I would have accomplished number 2.

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