Know Before You Go or, All About European Toilets

Not all toilets are created equal…or at least not the same.  In Italy, for instance, I ran into toilets that flushed with a chain hanging down from an overhead tank, a button on the wall, a big red button on the floor, or a button on the top of the tank.  And this doesn’t even consider how one flushes a Turkish toilet (more on that later).

A nice Italian toilet with a button to push on the wall in order to flush.

At one place I couldn’t find any means by which to flush the toilet.  I finally gave up!  When I unlatched the stall door to leave, the toilet flushed.  Yikes!  Am I the only one that got punked by that?

Another Italian toilet with a flush button located on the wall.

Not thinking much about the toilets, other than will I be able to find one if needed, I was hanging with a local who had stopped for a bite at a bar (that, too, is another story).  She then asked for the bathroom key.  The bar keeper gave her the key.  My friend asked if I need to go to the restroom (yay, a restroom), and of course I accepted.  When we got to the small restroom and unlocked the door, she said she just needed to put on her lipstick then I could use the restroom.  With lipstick applied, she headed out.  I entered to find no toilet.  There was what, to me, looked like a shower drain pan on the floor.

Turkish style toilet; ID 153560878 © Gabriel Cristian Codarcea Valcan |

I beckoned for my friend to come back.  I told her that I did not know how to use that restroom.  She educated me on it being a Turkish toilet (also known as a squat toilet, Indian toilet, etc.) and told me how it works.  My face probably gave away what I was thinking, and she told me to wait and I could use the restroom at our next stop.

Sadly, I did not take a photo.  I did not see how to “flush,” but my friend had told me to stand back when I flush because water might get on me otherwise.  Thank goodness for bathroom options!

A chain flush toilet; ID 2117194 © Paul Prescott |

At one point I had to pull a chain in order to flush the toilet.  It was the old school kind with the tank up near the ceiling.  By this time, I was so used to having to look around for the flushing mechanism that at a restaurant in Italy, I got a bit confused.  I looked around and saw a chain, which I pulled.  The chain, I guess, was to summons help.  A loud buzzer rang.  Thankfully, I then saw the button, flushed and returned to my table.  No emergency personnel showed up.  They were probably thinking…another silly American!

A floor button for sink water somewhere in Italy.

Sinks could be complicated as well.  Sometimes water turned on with a foot pedal on the floor.  I actually like that as there is less to touch with clean hands.

Hot and cold controls for this sink were foot controlled.

Several places had bathrooms that were a combo for men and women.  One stall for men and another for women.  The lavatories might be shared.

A bidet in my hotel room in Milan.

Still other facilities offered a toilet and a bidet.  My friend was very kind and answered tons of questions about bidets.  I do get it now, but I have yet to test one out.

An Italian bidet.

Of course, in London, you may have to pay to use the loo.  Many public toilets in parks or on the street cost 20 pence to enter.

No matter where you have to go to the bathroom in Europe, you may want to have some toilet paper with you.  It is not always available.




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