Lighter Side of Travel
Are No Toilets in St. Peter's
by Joseph P. Ritz
I learned that to my distress on my only visit to the Eternal City. The discovery began routinely enough when I began to feel one of natures most insistent and familiar urges as I was reverently admiring the awesome interior of the great cathedral. St. Peters is a vast church of overwhelming grandeur and artistic and religious importance. It contains a wealth of chapels, 44 altars, 229 marble columns, but it has, I found to my growing discomfort, no bathrooms.
After a frantic search of the interior I asked one of the guards, Dove la toeletta?
Responding to my Italian, he replied in English that the toilets were outside in the plaza.
I told my wife, Ann, I would return to the basilica in a few minutes and meet her inside the church near the exit door.
I walked out into St. Peters Square. The sun had just set and the light was fading, but there were still a few hundred men and women milling about in the square. I searched for a toilet, but found none.
I inquired at the Vatican information office. A young man dressed in a severe black suit, gleaming white shirt and gray tie tight against his Adams apple told me authoritatively that there was one a few hundred meters further on, but since it was nearly closing time it might be locked. I dashed toward it. It was locked.
I began sucking in my gut and walking carefully in 0measured steps.
There are 285 massive marble columns ringing Piazza San Pietro. I surveyed each one longingly as I passed. But there were too many Swiss Guards. Ringing the square was a busy street filled with speeding cars and noisy motor scooters. On the other side of the street I saw a sign marked W/C. I dont know what the W or the C stands for, but the sign in Rome means a toilet is nearby. An arrow pointed vaguely to the right.
My bladder was stretched like a balloon about to burst. I dashed in front of cars. Drivers honked and squealed their brakes, missing me by inches. Being hit by a car might be a relief. Surely no passerby would be offended if an injured pedestrian emptied his bladder while lying bleeding on the street.
I made it to the other side of the street unharmed and followed the direction in which the arrow pointed. It led to a gatehouse.
Where is the toilet, I asked desperately.
On the other side of the square, a guard said, pointing in the direction from which I had just come.
The other side of St. Peters Square was, I estimated, a distance roughly equal to the length of the Washington Mall. It would be impossible to resist natures most insistent urge for that time.
I followed the street which I had just crossed hoping to find a place that had a public rest room. I found a small Catholic church, which I entered. I looked for a john. I found none in the church. A door on the side led to the sacristy, which I entered. There was a valuable gold chalice lying on a table, but no toilet. It was now nearing 6:30 p.m. Ann, I knew, would have been forced to leave St. Peters, which closed at 6.
I saw some large potted plants in a hallway which led to the sacristy. I just began to water the vegetation when a tall, grey haired priest came out of the sacristy.
He looked at me with expressions of horror, distaste and anger alternating on his face in that order, like a traffic light going from green to yellow to red. I stood in the hallway, water running down my leg and onto the floor. The priest started to shout something in Italian. I dashed past him, explaining as I passed, I was looking for a toilet.
I found Ann desperately searching St. Peters Square for me.
I wet my pants in a church back there.
I wouldnt tell anybody, she said.
But now, you see, I have.
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