Sophisticated world travelers, such as B&B, understand that toilets in other countries may not meet Generally Accepted American Snob Standards (GAASS, hmmm.. sounds suspiciously similar to something that can make a lot of noise in a toilet.) If you are one of the ten or so people who watched Saturday Night Live circa 2007 you may recall Nuni and Noony, characters portrayed by Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen. Nuni and Noony were art dealers who lived in a very futuristic home and, although supposedly very sophisticated, could not accomplish any ordinary simple tasks or pronounce anything correctly. B&B were Nuni and Noony when it came to using restrooms in Tuscany.
If the rest room locked we either couldn’t figure out how to lock it or how to unlock it. All across Tuscany people could hear one giggling woman in a ladies room making extensive fiddling with the lock and doorknob noises while another woman sat giggling helplessly at each jiggling sound. The first to successfully use the facilities tried to explain to her sister, Nuni or Noony, how to enter and exit but the information rarely translated to better results.
Locks (or the frequent lack thereof) were not even the most difficult aspect of toilet usage. Some toilets flushed with a handle, some by pulling a chain and, most horrifying, the “Ottoman” toilet that didn’t involve flushing at all (see non-graphic photos). Many toilets in Tuscany included a hose attached to the wall. WTF? Are you supposed to take a shower afterwards? Wash your bum? What did you do that toilet paper couldn’t eradicate?
Virtually all restrooms had a string you could pull to summon help. Help for what that you would welcome the intervention of a waiter called away from his two-hour smoke break? “Mi scusi, è il mio asino pulito? ” (“Excuse me, is my bum clean”?) Would you even trust the waiter’s answer? What if he blew smoke up your ass? (See smoke break comment.)
It’s only fair to say that, on more than one occasion, Blonde pulled the alarm string. She always hurriedly exited the restroom intending to tell the staff that there wasn’t a problem or need for intervention only to find that absolutely no one had noticed or responded. In other words, she kept forgetting it was Italy.
A consistent issue was the need to milk the soap dispenser. If you’re accustomed to a dispenser where you push a button and soap emerges, then you’re very spoiled. In Tuscany most often there was a plastic soap teat descending from some dilapidated holder. If you wanted soap you had to simulate milking a goat. (We decided it was a goat as surely a cow would have more teaticity and would squirt milk. It’s well-known that goats squirt hand soap.)
Assuming that the soap could be milked, the next issue was drying your hands. For the most part this meant using your clothing. The next most prevalent option was a filthy towel hanging on the wall. This towel had not been laundered since the last time Italy led the world in worker productivity. Occasionally there would be a hand blower that would discreetly, and ineffectually, weakly whisper on your dripping hand.
Adding to this list of potential issues was figuring out how (or if) the toilet could be flushed or the water encouraged to flow into the sink. Options ranged from pushing a handle, pulling a chain, stepping on a pedal and/or praying. Nuni and Noony, in our consistently perplexed states, chose to believe that we could prevent, or at least seriously delay, Alzheimer’s by building new neural pathways every time we had to pee and wash our hands.
Ultimately B&B came up with a rating system for the restrooms of Tuscany. Although it’s our intellectual property we generously authorize you to use it:
- 4 stars is if the restroom has soap dispensers that do not require handling their teats, toilets that flush successfully on the first try , a door that locks and can be unlocked without the services of a locksmith or alerting non-existent medical authorities and a clean towel or enthusiastic hand blower to dry your hands.
- 3 star restrooms have only three of the above-mentioned components and we’ll let you guess about two, one and no star facilities.
Our best advice before you travel to Tuscany is to learn to milk a goat’s teat, remember to do a trial flush before you need it for serious purposes, carry handwipe thingies and take a no-nonsense door stopper with you. Alternatively, don’t have any liquids or roughage for the duration of your trip to Tuscany.