Flush like a Venetian

Not a Venetian toilet.

Except for during certain urgent moments, we don’t normally find ourselves obsessing about toilets. Not while traveling. And especially not while gaping in stunned appreciation at gorgeous buildings, eating fantasy-worthy food, and taking selfies with the local wildlife.  But that’s exactly what I did while trotting through Venice a little while ago. It all started at the Marco Polo airport.

Imagine, stumbling off an eight-hour flight then languishing in the customs line long enough to do the pee-pee dance. Let me tell you, super uncomfortable. After finally being given the all-clear to enter Italy, I rushed to the bathroom to get rid of most of the water and wine I drank to simultaneously hydrate and dehydrate myself on the journey between Atlanta and Venice. I felt relief upon relief to find an oddly placed bathroom empty.

In the airport’s defense, it seemed like some kind of “family” bathroom. All the women in line seemed reluctant to use it, then again none of them had that certain urgent look on their faces. After making gestures that, in my mind, equated to “Are any of you ladies going in there to use this strange toilet and if not can I go in before I explode?” I dashed in. After peeing, my muscle memory kicked in to flush. But I couldn’t find any kind of lever. Or button. Or foot pedal.

I searched for so long that I actually had thoughts of sliding the door open and asking one of the women in line how to flush the damn thing. But then, I drew in a deep yoga breath and tackled the matter again. Actual minutes passed. Finally, when I thought I’d have to leave the evidence of my copious consumption of vitamin C marinating in the commode, my eye caught the cleverly hidden button on the wall. Ah, sweet relief. I actually smiled hearing that long-for sound and watching the water swirl away to parts unknown to me.

Sadly, this was not the only time I’d be left in such befuddlement and eventual relief.

Another kind of afternoon delight.

All over the Venice area, puzzle toilets insisted on keeping me trapped for minutes on end, trying to figure out their dastardly (ok, just maybe a little unfamiliar) designs. It got so bad, that I couldn’t stop wondering about the next configuration of toilet I’d encounter. Would the flush be triggered by a panel on the wall? A chain above my head? A button on the side of the bowl? A Jedi mind trick?

In one hostel, I counted at least FOUR (4) different styles of toilets on three different floors, each with their own unique flushing mechanisms. It’s like they wanted me to stand there, Superman-style, narrowly assessing the tiny stalls and gleaming porcelain commodes, trying to find a solution to a problem any Venetian would immediately know how to solve. Maybe this was an essential part of the tourist experience. Or maybe I just have terrible eyesight.

At the end of the trip, I had to cry “uncle” and admit that variety doesn’t always have to be the spice of life. Especially not after drinking too much red wine and Italian spritzers.

How Sweet it is - 3 _ ebook
Fiona loves to eat, travel, and write. Her latest book, Insatiable Appetites, is out now.


  1. I had the same experience coming from Australia to Canada. Every damn toilet in this entire country had a different flushing mechanism. How hard can it be people? One universal flushing system! We can pilot a space module into the roaring depths of Saturn but we can’t get it together in the cistern. 🙂

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