During our trip toilets had become a real issue for me. In Venice, when 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.