Of Washcloths and Hotel Keys…

I suppose it is impossible to anticipate every little difference one may encounter while traveling abroad.  I am not referring to the expected cultural, geographical, and technological differences, but rather to the obscure details and minor oddities that never even appear as a tiny blip on the travel planning radar—especially for a novice.  When organizing our Italy trip, I knew that I would need a voltage converter and plug adaptors as well as a dual voltage hair dryer and flat iron.  To minimize any chance of falling victim to pickpockets—as my brother had in Spain—I purchased theft-deterrent gear, including an RFID blocking shoulder bag with slash-proof strap and locking zipper pulls.  I also invested in a compact toiletry bag, a collapsible duffle bag, and a portable luggage scale for efficient packing.  Various other items were added to my stash including water-proof boots on the off-chance that we would encounter flooding while in Venice.  Despite my attempts to think ahead, there were a number of unexpected curiosities along the way…

  • One thing I did not take into consideration was the absence of washcloths in Italian hotels.  On our first night in Milan, I was ready to hop in the tub and went in search of a washcloth.  Our bathroom was stocked with an ample supply of bath towels and hand towels, but no washcloths.  At the next hotel in Venice, once again, no washcloths.  I called the front desk and made an inquiry, even providing a detailed description—square, about 12×12 inches, a sort of miniature towel.  The staff member I spoke to was accommodating and soon showed up at our door with…several more hand towels!  Needless to say, I made do with those.  I guess this is common in Italy as I never saw a single washcloth during our stay.  I wonder if this is common throughout Europe, or is isolated to Italy.  Anyone have any insight—specifically regarding the washcloth situation in England and Ireland??  I have made a mental note to pack cheap, disposable washcloths the next time I travel to Italy!
  • Each of our hotel rooms (four different hotels in four separate cities) was equipped with an energy-saving key slot–a new concept for this American!  The slot serves as the primary electrical switch for the room—controlling the lights, heating/cooling system, outlets, and anything else that is powered by electricity.  Hotel keys are attached to a thin card, which must be inserted into the slot—usually located on the wall near the door—to activate lights and air.  When the card is removed, electrical current continues to flow for about 30 seconds, allowing you to make a safe exit from the room.  While I am sure this feature saves the hotel a bundle in electricity costs, it sure made it uncomfortable for us every time we came in from the frigid November temperatures and had to wait for the room to warm up!  It also prohibited us from leaving our electronics plugged in to charge while we were out of the room.  I have since learned that, often, there are one or two plugs that operate separately and may be used for that purpose…but we did not know to investigate.
  • Here are a couple of additional random thoughts regarding the hotel bathrooms in Italy…   1) Do not expect to have both a tub and a shower–at least that was our experience.  A couple of the tubs had a hand-held wand that could be used as a shower head, but it tended to be rather unwieldy.  2) Marble bathroom floors tend to be quite slippery when wet!  Exercise caution when walking on the wet floor, or when walking with wet feet on a dry floor.  Either scenario can be a recipe for disaster.  3)  Some hotel toilets are designed to conserve water.  These have a set of two buttons (usually on the wall near the toilet)–one large, one small.  The large button is pressed to dispose of solid waste; the small for liquid.  4)  As for the bidet…I am not even going there…  5) I had my first experience with a pay toilet in the Milan train station.  The cost was one euro.

These slight impositions in no way hampered our love and enjoyment of Italy, or lessened the quality of our hotel experiences.  I mention them only because it is information I would have liked to have myself before embarking upon our journey.  Please feel free to comment regarding other quirky or interesting travel tidbits that may be of value to others as they plan…


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