It is an unusual thing to post pictures of my bathroom on the internet. (Hello new readers! I promise I normally don’t do this.)
But this is no ordinary bathroom. It’s been such an integral part of my transition to living in Italy that I just had to show it to you and talk about it.
First, it’s a generous size for a bathroom in Florence. We looked for a long time to find a rental apartment that had a tub for our kids.
The last time we visited Florence we stayed in a place where the bathroom was so small, the toilet was in the shower! You could simultaneously use the bathroom and take a shower, if you wanted to multitask in that way.
We’re very grateful to have a nice big bathroom, but the size is not what makes such a significant impression. It’s the water.
I was talking with an expat mom last week, and we both agreed that what we miss is steady hot water.
I don’t want to generalize and say all apartments in Italy are this way, but taking a shower here requires a lot more thinking and planning than back in the states where all I have to do is turn a knob and get a full dose of hot water that I can stand under, just…I don’t know, standing there rinsing.
Because of the low electricity supply we can only turn on one appliance at a time which includes the apartment’s heat and the hot water heater. We have to turn off the heater before we can turn on the hot water heater, and the bathroom happens to be the coldest space in the apartment.
The weather outside is key. During winter when it was so cold and rainy, the bathroom was so cold that it was unpleasant to be there wet and shivering after a shower. The pipes were cold too, so any hot water lasted only briefly.
We have two hot water heaters, a small one and a larger one, both electric. The small one takes about fifteen minutes to heat up enough hot water to do the dishes or take a really quick shower. The larger one takes about an hour or two to heat up enough water for a shower or a bath.
There are two switches on the bathroom wall so you can turn them on. I appreciate the efficiency, but this does mean that you have to plan in advance when you’re going to have hot water, and you turn it off when you’re done. And if more than one of you wants to take a shower, you have to wait for the water to heat up again.
So naturally, this required a bit of restructuring to my normal morning routine for waking up and getting into the shower. I had to turn on the hot water heater first, and then wait an hour for it to be ready, and then try to be quick about it and finish in three to four minutes. There’s a tiny shower curtain that wraps around you, and in the meantime cold air is coming in from around the window.
It showed me just how much I rely on my regular routine to get going for the day, and how hard it can be to make changes. I tried lots of variations, and I’ve finally settled on a way to get my requisite shower. (The warmer weather is definitely helping too.)
Each morning I lean over the tub first and clean my hair using cold water over my head. This way I can stay warm and dressed for as long as possible. Then I get in the shower and use the warm water, but it doesn’t take as long because my hair’s already done, and since I’m using less water I don’t have to wait so long for it to be ready. (It took me a few weeks to figure this out. I’m obviously a novice.)
It always makes me think about living in countries where there is no hot water at all.
So that’s my bathroom tour, and probably more information than you wanted to know, but it’s part of life.
(I’ll try to show you more lovely photos next time.)
Let’s all give thanks for having hot water today, shall we?