sign for public bathrooms in italy
Italy with kids,  Italy Travel Tips

Bathrooms in Italy: all you need to know + tips for using Italian toilets with small kids

Toilets in Italy: how to find public bathrooms in Italy + tips for families with kids. All you need to know about finding and using toilets in Italy with practical tips for families with young kids.

Before having children, travel planning was all about picking beautiful places and memorable experiences.

After having kids, however, we quickly realized that less exciting and more practical issues also had to be taken into account, such as finding bathrooms for toilet breaks!

As crazy as it seems to have to write an article about toilets in Italy, I am sure parents will agree: travel is easier when you know how to tackle the sudden children’s need to pee and get your diaper changed!

While traveling in Italy with kids, you’ll have long days out sightseeing, which means you’re sure you will occasionally need to rely on public toilets.

Finding toilets in Italy is not difficult; however, Italian public bathrooms are different from what you may be used to and may not be immediately easy to see if you don’t know where to look.

On top of this, it may be helpful to know what to expect from Italian bathrooms in hotels and apartments and how to operate things such as a bidet.

This article is your essential guide to toilets in Italy.

It includes:

  • What to expect from bathrooms in Italy
  • How to find restrooms in Italy
  • Essential vocabulary
  • Tips for bathroom breaks for kids

How to say ‘toilet’ in Italian

In Italian, we have several words for bathroom / restroom.

WC – lit Water Closet: this is the standard and most common way to indicate a public toilet. In Italian, we pronounce WC Voo-Chee.

WC is what you will find on street signs, public ones, and bathroom doors.

This is mainly written and usually not used in speaking, so you don’t usually ask dov’e’ il WC?

You are more likely to use and hear dove’e’ il bagno?

Bagno – this is the most common Italian word for bathroom/restroom.

If you need ask where the restroom is, you will ask:

Scusi, dov’e’ il bagno? Excuse me, where is the toilet?

Toilette – the French word toilette is an old-fashioned way to call a bathroom/toilet, but it still works.

While you will not hear Italians say ‘dov’e’ la toilet’ (using the English word), you may hear older people asking dov’e’ la toilette the French way.

Toilette would be widely understood and a good alternative if you find the word bagno hard to say.

Other words for toilet you may come across in Italy are vespasiano (old fashioned, many people wouldn’t understand it any longer, but you may find it in written Italian); gabinetto; cesso (loo: you will not use this to ask where the bathroom is; it indicates the toilet vase and not the room it is in)

figurine of a man and a woman outside a public bathroom in Italy

How to identify toilets in Italy

Signs for restrooms in Italy are pretty straightforward and easy to understand.

They may include:

  • WC – short for water closet. Very common, concise way to identify restrooms
  • A drawing of one or two figurines of a man, a woman or both
  • On the actual door, you may have the drawing of a female figure (with a dress) or a male figure (with pants/ trousers) or the words signore = women and signori = men or also donne = women ; uomini = men.

In Italy, mixed / gender- neutral restrooms are not yet common.

Sign to public toilet in Italy with make and female figurine and the letters WC

Type of bathrooms in Italy

In Italy, you find various kinds of bathrooms.

Free public bathrooms in Italy

Free public bathrooms in Italy exist; however, they are not very common.

You mostly find them in smaller centers with considerable touristy affluence and in well-functioning regions such as Umbria, Tuscany or Liguria.

Just this summer, we have found and used them in Gubbio, Montepulciano and Cinque Terre (several locations) and the standard was basic but good.

Public toilets usually have private cubicles, a sink for hand washing and an electric hand dryer.

In most cases, to save water, the sink pedal operated or you will find a small plastic blob on the floor operating the water flow.

Usually, public toilets in Italy have toilet paper and soap holders but they tend to be empty as not replenished nearly as often as needed.

Image of sign to a public bathroom in PIsa, with baptistery in the background
Photo from Depositphoto, purchased with licence.

If you are traveling with small kids, it is a good idea to stock your changing bag with a toilet roll as well as your standard baby essentials.

Need to know! Usually, free public toilets in Italy do not have baby changing stations for kids and typically do not have toilet seats, so there is no surface to change diapers.

If you are traveling to Italy with a baby or toddler, make sure you read the paragraphs at the end of this article with my tips for baby changing on the go and helping toddlers use Italian toilets!

Paid public toilets

Paid public bathrooms in Italy are getting more and more common; however, they are still not as widespread as people who are out all day may like.

They are often free-standing buildings with an attendant or a turnstile activated by coins and they can be very well kept or just about ok, depending on the location. There are no common standards.

Paid-for public toilets usually have private cubicles, sinks and hand dryers.

Unlike free toilets, they usually have toilet paper and soap however, this is not guaranteed, especially in unmanned ones.

Paid public toilets usually require cash: coins for turnstile-operated ones or coins or notes for those with an assistant. I haven’t come across toilets accepting cards.

The cost of paid toilets in Italy is usually between 50 cents and 1 euro.

Toilets in museums and main attractions

Big attractions and museums usually have excellent facilities.

These typically are inside the attraction and therefore only accessible by patrons, which generally translates into a higher standard of hygiene and facilities.

Many museums also have baby changing facilities and baby feeding rooms/family rooms.

Any time you are in a museum, it is worth getting the kids to stop at the facilities as they will likely be the best you will find until back home.

Good to know! Some museums have facilities before the ticket booth: if you are in a hurry to find a toilet and see a museum, it is worth checking as you may be in luck!

Toilets in cafes and restaurants

The easiest way to access a toilet in Italy is by going to a cafe or restaurant.

Food establishments in Italy must guarantee their patrons access to the bathrooms, including people who make small purchases such as a coffee, a bottle of water or a packet of crisps.

Traveling with kids, we have noticed over and over again that people do not insist on you purchasing anything: if you ask nicely and point at your young child, usually they point you to the toilet no problem.

Please note that it is always better to ask than just getting in and looking for the bathroom.

If you are not a patron, you don’t have an absolute right to using the facilities pus often the toilet has a key you need to get at the till.

lavatory sinks in public restroom
Lavatory sinks in a public restroom photo from Depositphotos, purchased with licence

Toilets in train stations

Train stations are usually also equipped with toilets.

In most cases, train station restrooms are coin operated or have an attendant who looks after maintaining a decent standard of hygiene despite the large number of users.

The standards of toilets in train stations vary widely: we have found some with excellent facilities and some that are very basic.

As there is not one company operating public restrooms in Italy, you never know exactly what you get. It is, however safe for families not to count on baby changing facilities!

Toilets on trains and ferries

Italian trains, especially long distance ones, are equipped with toilets.

These are usually similar to those on places and come equipped with a toilet vase and sink.

In most cases, to limit water waste, the sink is operated by a foot pedal.

Ferries also usually have toilets with just the basics.

Types of toilets in Italy

There is no common standard for toilets in Italy.

In most cases, public toilets are basic but ok, with a toilet vase, a sink to wash hands, often a mirror and a hand dryier.

In some cases, you will also find what we call bagni alla turca (Lit Turkish toilets).

Bagni alla Truca are squat toilets and come in the form of private cubicles with hole-toilets on the floor that require you to squat.

To use them, you place your feet on the designated feet holds and squat.

example of squat toilet
example of squat toilet

To help you, there are handlebars on the wall that allow you to steady yourself, should you need it.

Once you are done, you flush just as you would any other toilet.

These are not very common but exist, so do not be surprised if you come across them!

My kids find Italian squat toilets rather upsetting and don’t like using them.

If there is no alternative, I find the best way to handle them is to go in with them and hold their hands: they are likely too little to be able to hold to the railing and you’ll be able to reassure them and even laugh at the discomfort of the whole toilet situation!

Standards of toilets in Italy

As mentioned above, there is no common standard for toilets in Italy.

However, there are a few things that you are likely to find in all public bathrooms in Italy (for private ones in hotes, see below!)

Most Italian public toilets don’t have a toilet seat.

This has to do with maintenance.

Since public toilets are often less than spotless, people often climb with their shoes on top of them, not to sit on a potentially dirty seat.

This break the seat and the bathrooms company usually takes the course of minimal action not replacing it instead of tackling the issue at source.

Free public toilets usually don’t have toilet paper.

As you can imagine, Italians do not carry their won toilet paper roll in their day bag and I don’t believe it is necessary for you to do so either.

However, I do recommend to have tissues on you and, if you have a baby changing bag, to stock it with extra wipes.

Most public toilets do not have baby changing stations.

This is one of the biggest conundrums for families traveling to Italy with a baby or toddlers in diapers.

It is also object of lots of tips exchanged between traveling parents.

We have tips for you at the end of this article!

How to help small kids using public bathrooms in Italy

If you have a toddler or a small child, using public toilets in Italy may require a bit of creativity as little legs may be too short to allow for easy hovering!

A couple of things that can help are:

  • Get your child to put their feet (with shoes!) over the toilet rim and squat from there. Hold hands!
  • Carry with you paper seat covers (paper, less comfortable) or a foldable toilet seat for kids (bulkier but more comfortable). You can then clean with disinfectant wipes.
  • Carry with you a portable travel potty if you are in Italy while potty training
Baby pink toilet seat in toilet.
Photo from Depositphotos, purchased with licence

How to flush toilets in Italy

You flush toilets in Italy like pretty much anywhere else in the world so chances are adults don’t need to read this paragraph!

However, I discovered the other day that my young kids had never seen a pull toilet flush before, so I am including the following info.

Toilet flush system

To flush toilets in Italy you may find:

Plastic / metal plated Buttons on the wall, either one or two – If two of them, the small one releases less water, the big one more.

One but metal button on the wall – this often requires a bit of strength to push. A small child may need your help!

Pull chain – coming down from the cystern, you pull strongly until water is released

Pedal flush – not very common and mostly seen on trains and means of transport, this is easy to miss if you know it is there but usually easy to operate also for kids!

How to use sinks in italian public restrooms

Again, you don’t need me to tell yo how to use a sink!

However, if you are sending your kids to the toilet alone, you may want to tell them some sinks in Italy are foot pedal operated.

How to find public restrooms in Italy

  • Go to a cafe

As I mentioned above, the easiest and most effective way to find a bathroom in Italy is to get into the nearest cafe; make a purchase and ask to use il bagno.

  • Ask google maps

Another way to find public toilets is to rely on google maps.

This is not always reliable as in many cases, toilets marked as in existence are closed or in disarray; however, if you open google maps on your location and type WC in search, usually a few come up.

You can also type in the public restroom.

  • Use an app

If you like apps, you can also try some of the following:

WC Roma – for the city of Rome
WC Toilette Venezia – for Venice
Flush – Find Public Toilets/Restrooms (google play store)

  • Use a website

You can also use the website (internet connection required)

How to diaper change in Italy public bathrooms

If you have a child in diapers, all this mention of lack of chaining station, squat toilets and no toilet seats may have made you nervous. how are you supposed to change diapers without being able to rest your child anywhere?

Indeed, changing diapers in Italy requires a bit of creativity. In most cases, the easiest way to do so is to use your stroller!

When nappy changing time comes, find a quiet place or simply turn your stroller to face you, away from other people and possible onlookers.

Recline the back as much as possible and slip a baby changing mat to easy to clean cloth under your baby. Change as normal, using baby wipes and diaper disposable bags you will then throw out at the first available trash can.

Leave a more proper, thoroughly clean and bath when you are back at your hotel.

Need to know: do not wash your baby in fountains, not even the small ones with free-flowing water. As well as the water being too cold for your baby, any sort of bathing, if noticed, will make you incur a hefty fine. Rinsing hands is ok, full-on washing is a no.

Italian bathrooms in hotels and apartments – bidets, showers and bathtubs

Bathrooms in hotels don’t need much of a presentation, being exactly like anywhere else in the world.

Hotel restrooms may or may not be equipped with toiletries and may or may not have a bathtub, while they most commonly have a shower, either a cubicle or as part of a bath-tun.

Usually, they do not have a baby changing station.

The one thing foreigners notice, however is that often the hotels and also the houses have an extra piece of furniture in the batrnoon: a bidet!

hotel bathroom in Italy eith toilet and bidet

The bidet originally comes from France but it is widespread in Italy and one of those things that is so convenient, you will quickly get used to it and won’t believe you could ever do without one!

A bidet is basically a low sink you can use to you clean your privates, wash your feet or shave legs.

Kids who see a bidet for the for the first time often react thinking it is a cool small tilet for them but a bidet is not for peeing, just for washing!

To use it, you straddle it facing the faucet – the rest is easy to figure out 🙂

If you want to use it for shaving or wash feet you can just use it as you would any sink.

Usually, bidets come with their own set of small towels.

How to ask where is the toilet in italy and useful phrases

Italian wordPronunciation*Translation / Meaning
BagnoBah -nho Restroom / bathroom
Bagno alla turcaBah-nho alla toor-khaSquat toilet
Tazza Tazz-ahToilet / toilet vase
WaterVah-tehrToilet vase
Carta igienicaKar-tah ee-jen-ee-kahToilet paper
SciaquoneSha-qwo-neh Flush
Tirare l’acquaTee-ra-ree lah- qwaTo flush
Guastogwa -stohOut of order
Solo per clientiSoh-loh pehr clee-en-teeFor patrons only
DisabiliDis-abee-leeAccessible bathroom (lit. Disabled)
Not gettare assorbenti nel waterDo not throw sanitary pads in the toilet
Dov’e’ il bagnoDove eh eel ba-nhoWhere is the toilet
*Click on the link and on the icon of the loudspeaker to hear it pronounced properly.

Bathrooms and toilets in Italy – tips for families: pin this!

Sign indicating a public toilet in Italy with overlay text: Bathrooms in Italy. Essential tips for families with kids by a local mom

Planning a trip to Italy? Don’t forget to also check out our 100+ Italy travel tips and our guide to planning a first trip to Italy!

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Marta Correale is an Italian mama of two. Born and raised in Rome, Marta has a passion for travel and especially enjoys showing off Italy to her kids, who are growing up to love it as much as she does! A classics graduate, teacher of Italian as a second language and family travel blogger, Marta launched Mama Loves Italy as a way to inspire, support and help curious visitors to make the most of a trip to Italy and learn about Italian culture on the way.