Whether you call it the restroom, toilet, loo, WC, lavatory, throne, ladies room, commode, lav or bathroom, few phrases are as essential as knowing how to ask where the bathroom facilities are when you’re travelling!
And as public facilities are pretty sparse in Italy “spending a penny” (as we say in Britain) can be tricky so you will want to memorise these phrases in case of emergency!
So, lets cut to the chase – the easiest way to ask where is the toilet please is to say Dov’è il bagno per favore? which is pronounced it doh-VEH eel BAH-nyoh per fah-vor-ray? Simple and to the point!
Hopefully the helpful Italian soul that you’ve stopped in the street, café or restaurant will take pity on you and point the directions to the facilities but just in case they don’t it’s also useful to know that A destra means on the right and A sinistra means on the left.
Alternative phrases you can use also include –
- Dov’è il toilette per favore? pronounced doh-VEH eel twoy-let per fah-vor-ray?
- Dov’è il gabinetto per favore? pronounced doh-VEH eel gah-bee-NEHT-toh per fah-vor-ray?
- Dov’è il WC per favore? pronounced doh-VEH eel voo-chee per fah-vor-ray? (Note : W is pronounced voo-voo in Italian – literally V V – but for some reason its enough to say vow-chee which really is VC. I have no idea why but it seems to work?!)
- Dove sono I servizi per favore? meaning where are the services and pronounced doh-veh soh-no ee sir-VEE-tsee per fah-vor-ray?
Personally I find bagno and toilette are the most used and easiest understood but feel free to go with whatever phrase works for you!
Also, while we’re at it, I thought I’d throw in a couple of extra phrases that might just come in handy as you never know what you’re going to find on entering an Italian loo!
So if you get caught short without loo paper the phrase you need to say to the attendant (assuming there is one!) is Mi scusi ma c’è bisogno di carta igienica nel bagno per favore meaning Excuse me but there is no toilet paper in the toilet. Its pronounced Mee skoo-zee mah chay bee-zon-nyo dee car-tah ee-jen-ee-cah nell bah-nyo per fah-vor-ray!
You could also try Non c’è carta igienica da nessuna parte meaning There is no toilet paper anywhere and pronounced Non chay car-tah ee-jen-ee-ca da neh-soo-nah par-teh. Or you could use the go-to tourist fall back and point and say carta igenica per favore? meaning loo paper please?
And finally if, as I once found in Rome, the toilet is rather…um how can we put this delicately…..bunged up, you could try something along the lines of Signora, il bagno è otturato, meaning Miss/Madam, the toilet is blocked and pronounced See-nyor-rah eel bah-nyo eh oh-too-rah-toh. Good luck with that one!!
So, there you go! If ever you are caught short in Italy and dying to spend a penny, or more likely a euro, I hope this comes in very handy!! If you need any more useful phrases in Italian pop over to Italian 101 for more suggestions including how to say hello, happy birthday, please and thank you and do you speak English?!! I am gradually trying to cover all eventualities so if there are any phrases you particularly want me to cover or any that have come in useful over the years that you’d like to share leave me a comment! And in the meantime, may your toilet roll be long and your rest room clean!
There aren’t a lot of public toilets in Italy and the quality can vary, shall we say(!), so I would suggest a few travel tips –
- Always carry tissues or wet wipes with you!
- Always have change for public loos!
- Museums and galleries usually have decent toilets so take advantage!
- Never pass a free toilet, you don’t know when you’ll see another one!