Public toilet charges in Italy– I refuse to pay €1.50 to flush away my Crohns and empty my ostomy bag

During our trip toilets had become a real issue for me. In Venice, toilet1when you finally found a WC after following a muddle of signs which had blatantly been positioned to confuse desperate tourists and their nearly wetting their pants kids, you were faced with a €1.50 fee to have a pee. For me this was an absolute slap in the face, and I stubbornly refused to pay, scrap that, I absolutely refused to pay to empty my ostomy bag. I mean why should I have to pay to sort something out which is absolutely necessary. This led to some very sticky situations, where in the middle of a very lovely day we ended up rushing around with me clutching my rapidly filling ostomy bag, tempting fate for an explosion which would have left gondola drivers gaping and loosing their hats, trying to find somewhere for me to use the bathroom.

Because of this we became criminals on the run…I like to think of us as the toilet bandits. We would go into bars and either sneak in through the crowds to use the bathrooms, or Andy would sit and look at a menu while I went to deal with Winnie before running off down the street having done the toilet equivalent of the DINE AND DASH…I suppose you could call it a PEE AND FLEE or a FLUSH AND RUSH – the possibilities are endless.

Yes I did feel sorry for the waiters and waitresses as I defied their ‘toilets are for paying customers only’ signs etc. But at the end of the day why should anyone have to pay for something that our bodies have to do naturally. If I’d decided to empty my bag on a street corner that wouldn’t have been acceptable, but if I didn’t have €1.50 would I have had a choice? Before my operation using the toilets alone would have filled the whole budget of our trip – needing the loo every five minutes – we defiantly wouldn’t have gone on a gondola ride – you do the math.

In Florence the toilet situation slightly improved as there were more free museums and we discovered a department store called Coin where the toilets were freely accessible, but we still had moments. At one point Winnie was so close to bursting I was doubling over and after rowing and getting upset (I turn into a bitch when I need the loo – rightly so I believe) and blaming Andy who was trying and failing to find us somewhere to sneak into, I decided I had no option but to try the Opera House. At first the guard insisted I had to pay the €12 entrance fee to use the facilities, but as I said medical condition and he noticed me clutching my stomach he kindly let me in to use the fanciest toilets in the world under the strict instructions I did not go anywhere else – it was so kind and restored my faith in human nature, but I do think he thought I was pregnant.

In Rome things just get worse. The only times you can truly use a toilet are when you are eating or drinking, but be warned if you want to do a WEE and FLEE then you might get caught out by the coded doors which they even have in Burger King. We soon realised the key to this was simply to stand next to a door and wait for someone else to come out, but not until Andy had endured the most disgusting and expensive shot of coffee in the world.

The queue for the toilet at the Coliseum is massive, but only for the women (as per usual), so if you’re a man, well, good for you! But they are clean, so if you need it take advantage. Also be aware that throughout Italy most of the ice cream shops and some bars don’t have loos, keep that in mind if you’re going to walk miles to indulge in ice cream and your IBD kicks off or ostomy bag fills up. A tip to be aware of is that the easiest WEE AND FLEE we did was at the Irish Bar in Rome…I was doubled over in pain from a horrid build up of blood and mucus and could hardly move by the time we got there, but the place is so big they can’t tell that you’ve done the deed and run away.

Oh and if you are lucky enough to find a free toilet in Italy, the chances are it will leave a lot to be desired. You will be lucky, as a woman, if you get even the most basic of seats to sit on…it seems the Italians don’t believe in toilet seats, or lids. It’s most bizarre and it leads to that uncomfortable hovering manoeuvre, which is pretty much impossible when dealing with IBD pain or emptying an ostomy bag. And once you have done the deed trying to work the sink will leave you baffled…some have foot pumps..it really is a different world.

I know it sounds silly but the toilet situation very nearly ruined it for me. It was something that constantly played on my mind, and I found myself looking for potential pit stops everywhere. I guess its something I can’t help after 13 years of constant diarrhoea and vomiting. If it had been six months ago it would have made the holiday unbearable, but thanks to Winnie I just about managed to get by with few sticky situations.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Public toilet charges in Italy– I refuse to pay €1.50 to flush away my Crohns and empty my ostomy bag

  1. Yikes! I’ve had some troublesome experiences with IBD travelling too – foolishly having an iced coffee full of ice cream and milk when I was in Melbourne, and newly diagnosed… my cousin must have thought I was having some sort of breakdown with the frequency of having to race around, but thankfully there were (mostly) sufficient free bathrooms around that day. I also had a horrendous time in Fiji, on a day trip to Suva, the capital city. I spent about an hour holed up in sketchy bathrooms at the airport, in agony – and then when we got to the city proper, I had to rely on horrible food court bathrooms where they charged you 50c to use the bathroom and gave you a meager ration of paper! I was never so relieved to have a stash of tissues in my bag… I’ve got a temp colostomy now, so at least it doesn’t tend to be as rush-requiring as an ileo might be. Still, not fun!

  2. I know it’s 2015 & a bit of time had passed since you wrote this, but I found it so funny to read the similarities of our experiences, that I thought I should share.

    My fiance was born in Yonkers, NY, USA, but raised in Italy. His family still has their house there. Anyway, I’ve been twice – the first was the summer of 2011, for about 3 weeks, no ostomy. (I’ve had crohns for about 12 years & have had an ostomy bag 3x so far. I’ve been in remission since 2007, knock on wood). It was an absolutely amazing trip. About a month after returning, I had a herniated bowel that ruptured, leading to 6wks in the hospital, 3 surgeries & my 3rd ostomy bag, which devastated me. Not to mention 2 large abdominal drains & PICC line. The following summer 2012, after both drains had been removed & I was doing well, we decided to take another 3wk vacation abroad. I was excited, but very very nervous (especially when being randomly selected for a part down before boarding the plane.. good times). I packed enough supplies to be able to change the bag every day for 2 months, just in case. Lol….

    One day, while shopping in one of the “markets” (equivalent to a large tag sale or flea market of new items. I’m sure you saw or went to a few), I had to empty the bag. So my fiance & I did what we normally do when in an area he doesn’t know people & we found the nearest bar for him to get some espresso. Thankfully, he grew up on the stuff & loves it, but as you noticed, not all coffees are created equal. It was a beautiful day & the pace was packed. I went to the bathroom & noticed the door didn’t lock. No problem I thought, cuz there was still a stall with a door – but of course, that one didn’t lock either… Oh well, it was too crowded for me to try to get my fiancee attention, so I figured I’d be quick & hold the door from the bottom & make it apparent I was in there should someone enter. I finish up & reach for the TP…. Empty! And now I’m freaking out a bit. (btw, I was wearing white linen pants. There would be no mistaken should something dribbling). So, I waddle out to the sink to grab some hand towels instead… WHAT? NO PAPER TOWELS EITHER?! So now, I’m frantically trying to rinse the end in a sink that’s way too high (I don’t dare take it off to wash, got forbid she should start letting loose again) when suddenly, the out side door slides open & this lady walks in & stops, hiding the door open thinking there is a line. Did I mention I don’t sotak Italian? Lol… I’m yelling “shut the door” but can’t turn around to do it cuz then she’ll see & I might risk splattering, & she walls into the stall to find an unflushed toilet. Now she thinks it’s clogged & starts mumbling something & I’m just frantic, repeating in the only Spanish that came to mind, ‘no papel no lapel.’ Which means nothing to her… Lol! She walks out & suddenly comes back with a MALE employee who’s carrying a plunger. It couldn’t get any worse! He flushes first, of courseit fits down cuz it wasn’t clogged to begin with. But the kicker was, the whole time, she’s standing there with the door open!

    I finish up, pull my pants up& rush out to find my fiance, and then a corner to go hide in… It seems like it took so long & how could I have taken that much time, but it was really only over a close of about 5 minutes… It was humiliating, but a hilarious story now!

    Ah, Italy!

    • Oh God, this story makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. I’m so glad you can laugh about it now, it sounds like just the sort of thing that would happen to me – there never seems to be any loo roll in any toilet I ever go into when I need to empty my bag!
      I think I could live in Italy, but would really need to learn Italian and carry around a roll wherever I go!

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