Language, culture, religion, food habits, and even sports might divide us into nations, civilizations, ethnicities, clans, clubs, on and on until the tiniest particles of society. But no matter how different we think we are, we all answer to one call: the call of nature.
The problem with nature’s call is that she doesn’t wait. That’s why you must always be ready, especially if you’re traveling to another country. And especially if that country is Italy, the place where diets go to die.
Prepare to enjoy a 100% emergency-proof trip by learning how to say “Where is the toilet” in Italian and everything else you need to know about bathrooms and toilets!
Bathroom and toilet in Italian: How to say it
Let’s start with some basic terminology. Just like in English, there are different ways to mention the room that’s more important than any other. How to choose one or another is mainly a matter of formality and politeness.
Here you have the many terms to say toilet, bathroom, and restroom in Italian:
- Toilette: A polite way to call it, with a French twist. Perfect in restaurants, hotels, workplaces, and pretty much everywhere except homes.
- WC: A less formal but more international term that’s ok to use in all public places.
- Servizi igienici: A term that’s mainly used in offices, museums, train stations, and other public places. It literally means “hygienic services.”
- Bagno: The good ol’ bathroom, a familiar term that’s better not to use in a formal context (but if you do, no worries. Italians are not overly formal in general). A little architectural tangent: unlike in other countries (i.e., France) Italian homes usually have only one room for the toilet and the shower or bathtub, that’s to say the bagno. That’s why when visiting someone’s house, it is perfectly ok to ask “dov’è il bagno?”, while it would be a little less ok in, let’s say, a fancy restaurant or a workplace.
- Water: Many don’t know it, but the word “WC” means “water closet.” We Italians have taken the word “water” to designate the toilet bowl itself, but we pronounce it “vah-ter”, with a clearly voiced “v” and “r.”
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Let’s look at a few example sentences to discuss this universal topic:
Il bagno è in fondo al corridoio a destra.
Translation: The bathroom is at the end of the hallway, then right.
Il WC è fuori servizio.
Translation: The toilet is out of order.
La toilette delle donne è al primo piano.
Translation: The women’s toilet is on the first floor.
Where is the bathroom in Italian
Now let’s talk about one of the crucial questions you’ll ever (and most often) ask in your life. So, how do you say “where is the bathroom” in Italian? It’s pretty simple.
|Where is the toilet?||Dov’è la toilette?||ˈdo.vˈɛ la twaˈlɛt?||Doh-veh lah twah-leh-tt?|
|Can I go to the bathroom?||Posso andare in bagno?||ˈpɔs.so anˈda.re ˈin ˈbaɲ.ɲo?||Poh-ssoh ah-ndah-reh een bah-ñoh?|
|Where is the WC?||Dov’è il WC?||ˈdo.vˈɛ ˈil vu.t͡ʃi?||Doh-veh eel voo-tzee?|
|Where are the services? (meaning hygienic services)||Dove sono i servizi?||ˈdo.ve ˈso.noˈi serˈvit.t͡sji?||Doh-veh soh-noh ee ser-vee-tzee?|
Toilet paper and more handy bathroom words in Italian
Just like there’s more in a plane than the seats, the same applies to toilets. For a full bathroom experience, let’s check the most important words and expressions you should know.
|Toilet paper||Carta igienica||ˈkar.ta iˈd͡ʒɛ.ni.ko||Kar-tah ee-gee-en-ee-kah|
|To flush the toilet||Tirare lo sciacquone||tiˈra.re lo ʃakˈkwone||Tee-rah-reh loh shah-qwo-neh|
|Men’s toilet||Toilette degli uomini||twaˈlɛt deʎi ˈwɔ.mi.ni||Twah-leh-tt deh-glee wo-mee-nee|
|Women’s toilet||Toilette delle donne||twaˈlɛt delle ˈdɔn.ne||Twah-leh-tt deh-lleh doh-nneh|
|Unisex toilet||Toilette unisex||twaˈlɛt ˌuniˈseks||oo-nee-sex|
|Dressing room / Locker room||Spogliatoio||spoʎ.ʎaˈto.jo||spoh-glee-ah-toh-yoh|
Now here you have a few examples of sentences – some of them could turn out to be very useful in those decisive moments:
La carta igienica è finita. Posso averne un rotolo?
The toilet paper has run out. Can I have one roll?
Ricordati di tirare lo sciacquone.
Remember to flush the toilet.
Un tempo era possibile trovare il fasciatoio solo nei bagni delle donne, ma ora non è più così.
In the past only women’s toilets had a changing table, but now it’s not the case anymore.
Il rubinetto nello spogliatoio delle donne è rotto.
The faucet in the women's dressing room is broken.
Nelle case italiane, il bidet è sempre presente accanto al water.
In Italian homes, the bidet is always there next to the toilet bowl.
Italians and bidet: A love story
Italians are proud of their food, their coffee, their wine, their sunny weather, their landscapes and beautiful cities. But there’s one more thing we love about our country: the bidet.
This little sanitary item that always comes with the toilet in every Italian house and hotel (and even occasionally in offices, libraries, museums and restaurants) was actually born in France and was made mandatory by the Italian law in every residential building quite recently, in 1975.
Maybe it’s because at the time Italy was rapidly getting out of poverty and embracing a modern, comfortable and hygienic life, which the bidet somehow became one of the symbols of (together with television!). And since then Italians can’t do without it.
It not only it makes us nice and clean in our most delicate parts, but it’s also something we have that many other countries don’t – particularly our French cousins, or at least not so much.
Italians and French, as it happens in many families, share a bit of (friendly) rivalry. France is a richer country, their wines and food are globally considered more prestigious, and even their football teams have better results. But when it comes to bottom hygiene, Italy wins. It’s a small win, but a win indeed.
Italian bathroom etiquette and tips
- It’s usually a good norm to buy something if you’re asking to use the bathroom in a restaurant, cafe or bar. Enjoy a coffee break while you’re at it! If you take your coffee at the counter, it’ll only cost 1€ or a little more.
- It’s pretty rare, but in some places (for example gas stations or public parks) you’ll find a cleaner you’re supposed to tip sitting at the bathroom entrance.
- Italians usually have a specific soap for their bottom parts. You’ll find it on the bidet or in the shower and it doesn’t mean the person using it has some health issues. We also have a specific little towel!
- Unfortunately, it’s not at all common to find tampons and pads vending machines in public bathrooms. Make sure to have them with you.
Enjoy a full Italian experience!
As the famous Italian singer and poet Fabrizio De André said “Nothing grows from diamonds, from manure flowers grow”. Toilets and everything that comes with them are a vital part of life and a topic that’s important to know how to discuss in case of need.
Bookmark this blog post and read it again before starting your Italian adventure, it’ll help you enjoy it at your best, no matter the circumstances. Especially if you’re studying Italian and want to take every chance to practice!
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