The Emperor Vespasian was the son of a tax collector. This explains a lot.
As a form of revenue collection, he introduced a urinal tax. When his son Titus objected, according to his biographer Suetonius, Vespasian grabbed a coin from the pile of revenue from this tax and held it under his son’s nose, exclaiming ‘Doesn’t this money smell good’.
Titus got the point. He didn’t repeal the urinal tax when he became emperor.
Fast forward some 1950 years to now. Italy has very few public toilets. And those that it does have, mostly at railway stations, are pay toilets.
This, more even than the Colosseum, is the Flavian dynasty’s lasting legacy to Italian tourism.
Perhaps the toilets are kept in a better state this way. And if I am caught short after drinking a litre of mineral water or a couple of ‘calici’ of wine over lunch, I am not going to mind paying a euro to make my personal comment on the economy.
But what I do mind is that I do like being able to wander on foot far from my hotel, and to eat and drink whenever I feel like it. The remarkable lack of public toilets can make for a very uncomfortable time during such touristy meanderings.
I think this is my main grumble about Italy, as I near the end of my trip. To put it crudely, there are not even that many lemon trees to water, although I get a sneaking suspicion as to why there are so many lime trees in central Rome….