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Public Toilets in Venice

When you need to spend a penny, prepare to pay a lot more.

Venice is often criticized for its shortage of toilet facilities. To some extent, the criticism is justified--after all, the city welcomes an estimated 12,000,000 tourists a year, yet it has only a handful of public WCs scattered around the half-dozen sestieri, or districts, that make up the historic center. It doesn't take a plumber to realize that the existing facilities are going to be overwhelmed when 100,000 tourists show up with their water bottles on a typical summer day.

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Above: Public toilets in San Polo. INSET BELOW: In bars, you'll occasionally find Turkish-style toilets.

photoOne could argue that building enough toilets for the masses would require destroying many of the buildings and monuments that tourists come to see. Large-scale deployment of lavatories would also displace even more Venetians than the 1,200 who already flee to the cheaper, less crowded mainland in a typical year (maybe in search of a place to pee).

If it's any consolation, the city has promised to build more public restrooms as part of a major effort to improve tourist facilities. The city recently doubled the prices of using public WCs in what critics have called a "toilet tax" on visitors and residents.

Here's how to make the best of a poor situation:

  • Know where to go. See the list and official link on page 2 of this article.

  • Go when you have the opportunity. Use your hotel bathroom before you start the day's sightseeing. During a museum visit, look for the restroom. At better restaurants and cafés, use the loo before you leave.

  • Carry change for toilets, which often have turnstiles at the entrances. Public WCs of AMAV, the Venice sanitation authority, charge a mind-boggling 1,50 unless you have the Venice Connected pass. Larger museums (such as the Doge's Palace) have attended restrooms with posted fees. In other museums and galleries, toilets are often free.

  • Pay attention to spelling. "Signori" means "men," and "Signore" means "women." Fortunately, many restroom signs use icons instead of text.

  • Don't be fazed by unisex facilities. Some museums don't have separate restrooms for men and women. Instead, an attendant directs you to the next vacant toilet stall, or--in some cases--banks of men's and women's toilets face a common row of washbasins. This isn't as alarming as it may sound; unisex restrooms normally don't have urinals, and toilet stalls are enclosed from floor to ceiling, with solid walls and doors.

Next page: Venice lavatory locations


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