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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Golden Showers

The American phrase “Golden Showers” used to be associated with a certain fetish but now I think it is used as a catch phrase for anything that has to do with urination. This is a kid’s friendly blog, so I am keeping the definition relatively clean.

When Deme and I drive to Rome for the weekend, a 6+ hour drive depending on the traffic, the number of stops, road work etc…We usually get gas, a snack and use the restroom. Restrooms are big business here in Italy, the people of this country love to travel. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Italians travel to eat, to go to the seaside, to shop, for any reason whatsoever. When I was in Venice last year, I say my first pay toilet. They call them WC’s here (Water Closet) this is an English term. You pay 1 dollar and get to use the facilities, same with the train stations and many public places likes, parks, parking lots and the like. When I was in Thailand, I saw my first Asian toilet, the one with a hole in the ground that you squat over. Here in Italy they call them Turkish toilets and yes, they still exist abundantly.

Restrooms are coveted here, you are expected to buy food or drink from an establishment before you may use the restroom. We are always looking for a bar so I can get a fresh squeezed orange juice and Deme a coffee when I need a restroom. There was one occasion in which we ate breakfast at a bar and after I used the restroom and left, a guy who did not see me eat and drink, ran out of the place yelling, “Grazie, Grazie, Va Bene, Va Bene.” I had no idea why he was saying this, Deme told me it was the equivalent of “Thanks, a lot for nothing lady.” We won’t go there again.

Back to the Golden Highways, last weekend on our most recent trip to Rome and back, the traffic was heavy as it was a holiday weekend. On this weekend I saw a good number of cars pulled over by the side of the road, not for overheating but for peeing. Mom’s holding kids above ground, men with their backs turned towards traffic and people just crawling out of ditches next to the highway. This sort of shocked me because Italy has the most sophisticated rest stops I have ever frequented. The rest stops are not like the ones on the West Coast at all, they are full-blown gas stations, bars, restaurants, restrooms and shops all rolled into one. You can buy the paper, a pizza, a CD, a bit of prosciutto and licorice gum. I spend about 2-3 Euros per long drive because I pay the little lady who cleans the restrooms. Usually at the bigger ones there is an attendant and she sits by the entrance with a little wicker basket for tips. Deme never tips but I always do depending on the cleanliness of the place. So why would anyone pee next to a highway? Mind you the cars can be going up to 120 mph!

There are no obvious laws or taboos here about urinating in public. Once at a gelato store in Torino, of course they did not have a public restroom, a family of four pulled up on their bicycles. It’s a bit of a hot day and as mom and daughter go in for the gelatos, dad and boy stay outside to watch the bikes. I stand in the shade with my cone and Deme is on his cell phone. All of a sudden the little boy run over to a large garbage dumpster and pees on the side of it, this kids is about 8 years old. Another time in Rome, after a late night out, we head home and while parking our car, I see and well dressed guy peeing on a light pole right in front of Deme’s mom apartment. These are not isolated incidents; in fact, I notice these events often when we go out.

Peeing in public in the U.S. usually means you are so drunk that you can’t possibly navigate yourself to a proper restroom. Here in Italy, it just means you could not find of the moment you had the inkling you might need one.

17 Comments:

At 7:42 AM, Anonymous dario said...

Ahahahah, funny!
Strange. Me too, when I go out of Italy i notice the restrooms, and i found always incredible that only in Italy you can find bidet's. I always think to myself how do other people do... Do they go around with dirty butts? :-)

Ciao!
dario

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Ciao Dario,
I have no idea how I got along without a bidet for so many years, now if I over move back to the US I will have to bring one with me.

 
At 1:59 PM, Blogger Sara said...

After using the bidet, don't you have to wipe anyway seeing as you're all wet? I read some bidet history and it says that the bidet was developed to wash private areas between the customary weekly bath/shower. The fact that Americans tend to shower every day, and most shower in the morning, has lead to the bidet being rare in the U.S. Personally, a bidet sounds uncomfortable to me. What if the water is the wrong temperature and is too cold or too hot? Yikes!

Sara

 
At 2:09 PM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

A bidet has a mixer and it's like a faucet. Cold plus hot = warm
Personally it is a great, very hygenic, they are all over Europe.

 
At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Gia said...

I quite like them! When I returned from Europe I would have dreams that Mom had installed a bidet into the Yigo house.

 
At 6:42 PM, Blogger Haskin Family said...

Why bring one home with you when you can get an add-on for your existing toilet?

http://www.washlet.com/default.asp

They even have a portable version you can take with you.

We're getting one for our remodel.

 
At 2:03 AM, Blogger rowena said...

I'm am so totally 'rolling on the floor' with giggles that I'm kicking myself for not having thought to post something on this subject. But then my obsession with italian food has taken over my better senses and the everyday stuff goes right over my head!

I am looking at your source code. I'll send an email to perhaps solve the problem of your profile pic not showing up on this here page. I've seen that it shows up on your profile page though...go figure. Maybe it's conflicting wity hour flickr script, don't know for sure.

 
At 8:02 AM, Anonymous dario said...

Sara,
Also Italians usually tend to have a shower every day. When it is hot, we often like to have one even more than once a day. But not necessarily after a poop!

For example i am accustomed to make a shower in the evening when i come home from work, but usually i "sit on the throne" in the morning, before leaving the house. If there hadn't been any bidet in our bathroom, i should have needed to make a shower in the morning too, or to hold my poop 'till the evening, or even, to keep the butt dirty all day long, which i kind of find a little uncomfortable.

About wiping our ass, we also use toilet paper (this technology came to Italy a lot of years ago!!!). Then we wash it with water at the proper temperature, depending upon the predilection of each one. At the end, just to complete the job, we use to dry the wet parts with a towel. Since we also consider un-hygienic otherwise, we also have a special towel just for the part got wet with the use of the bidet.

In Italy a complete set of bathroom-towels is composed by a big one, for the shower, a medium one for the hands and face, and a little one for the intimate parts.

That works in general, but i have also to admit that dirty people are allover the world, Italy included, so the fact that there is a bidet doesn't always mean that everybody use it! ;-)

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Dario,
I find your comments very true and accurate. I feel much more hygenic with a bidet in my home.

 
At 2:16 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Dario,

I didn't mean to sound like I thought that modern Italians do not shower every day. However, when the bidet was developed (17th century in France) it was not typical to bathe everyday. The more common practice was to bathe every week or so. But in the meantime, cleansing was made available during the week with the use of the bidet. I was just reading the hisotry of the bidet, and it offered this as a possible explanation for it's rarity in the US.

So, I'm trying to figure out the exact usage. Do you use soap when using a bidet? Do you use your hands to wash when using the bidet or depend entirely on the water stream alone? That's very interesting about the towels and makes much sense.

 
At 1:48 AM, Anonymous dario said...

Sara,
I am sure that the bidet was invented when people used to wash themselves once a week or even less. But the one installed in my house is much younger. That because we find it useful also in modern age.
Another thing, for example, is the parfums. They were invented to contrast the fact that people, bathing not very often, they used to stink a lot. Nevertheless women use parfums also today, even if i am sure that they would not stink even if they didn't.
To answer your questions, i can say how I use the bidet.
Yes, i use soap. Usually i use liquid soap instead of bars cos i prefer. I use my hands, considering that the butt is not that dirty since i already wiped it with paper. About the water stream it depends upon the model of the bidet. Some of them they have a faucet, others sprouts from the bottom and other else have little holes in the sides where the water comes out.
Ciao
dario

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger Sara said...

Dario,

I'm an artist too! I checked out your Web site. Do you have more work on the internet?

I read that bidets are not found in the UK. So I wonder, since Protestant English founded what came to be modern American culture, if this has more to do with why bidets are not popular in the U.S. rather than differences in hygiene habits.

Also, do you provide "intimate" towels to house guests? Do you provide intimate towels for guests that happen to drop by?

Sara

 
At 6:30 AM, Anonymous dario said...

Yeah, i know that Puritan Church in U.K. used to think, in the past, that it was a Pity to touch with hands intimate parts of the body, but i think that modern Protestant Church, also over there, allow now to do that.
The problem, i guess, is radicated into culture: nobody ever introduced bidets so nobody use it. For the same reason, i guess, American bathrooms don't have bidets.
A strange thing is that in France they don't have bidets either, even if, it seems, that tool was invented over there. The word "bidet" (which is used in Italian language as it is spelled and pronounced - "bee-DEH") is infact a french word.
About towels, yes, it is common to provide fresh towels for shower and bidet for guests when they are hosted at one's house.

I cannot really define myself as an "artist"... I just like to draw sketches freehand with pencil over common paper. I was very interested, during my education in the college, about computer graphics and virtual reality, and so how light reacts upon solid models. Maybe i'm particularily interested in reproducing freehand transparencies, reflections and shading in general. No, there is no other drawing of mine on the net. How about you?
My favorite form of art is anyway music, even if i am kind of out of shape, since i do not practice playing piano very often since several years.

 
At 7:28 AM, Anonymous rowena said...

Okay, I feel the need to continue this thread as the topic of bidets seem to be an interesting one.

A long time ago when I thought ICQ was the hottest thing since Tabasco sauce, I chatted with an italian citizen about the use of bidets. He told me that he actually washed his socks in them as it was the perfect size for small items of clothing. Whether he was kidding or not I'll never know but it seems that the bidet is useful fixture in our home as the height makes it useful for washing my feet (or soaking them in warm water when it's freezing in the winter!).

 
At 8:10 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

This bidet topic has blown up, I will admit I was the dogs feet in the bidet.

 
At 10:41 PM, Blogger Sara said...

I have to admit that I have always had an interest in the non-romantic things in life, though I guess it is possible to romantacize about bidets.

My research showed that "bidet" is a French word that means "pony." It supposedly was invented for horsemen that didn't have the ability to take a full out shower when on the move, so they would use a bidet to wash the parts most closely in contact with the saddle.

Rowena, I also read on several bidet manufacturer's web sites that suggest using the bidet to hand wash clothes and to wash your feet or shoes. Fascinating!

Dario, have you had a chance to work with 3-d computer modeling programs? There is an artist here in town that draws on layers of mylar (frosted plastic)and has the layers hang in front and touch each other at the slightest wind. It's very ghostly. Also, I have seen installations with projected drawings/images on transparencies intersecting and moving within a space. Very interesting! Yes, I have a web site. Go to www.sara-la.com. I wish I could play a musical instrument, but have never found the time to dedicate to learn one.

Gina, nice image. Zavier standing very uncomfortably in a slick bidet.

 
At 11:20 PM, Anonymous dario said...

Sara.
Wow!!! I love your paintings! Great! I like the colors, i like the shading and also the subjects.
I didn't really work "with" computer modeling programs for computer graphics. In my studies i developed a modeler and a rendering system program for realistic imaging. It was a program that tried to join "ray-tracing" and "radiosity" algorithms. In few words it was a program that "computed" images simulating what could be the behavior of virtual light sources that bounch on virtual scenes. So i had to deal about the phisical laws that govern the light in the real world.
Now i still work on modeling, but for industrial purpose (nothing to do with art).

Uhm... bidets and ponies... seems like it can be referred to the size of bidets. Those are little basins just like a ponies are little horses (?!?)... can be, eh?

ciao
dario

 

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