Washcloths in Italy: Do Italians Use Them?

Published on: July 7, 2016 | Last Updated on December 12, 2018
A bathroom (senza servietta) in Bologna

Don’t count on finding washcloths in Italy.

And no one I asked is quite sure why…

Don’t be surprised if you have a hard time finding a salvietta (washcloth) in Italy. Washcloths are so commonplace in hotels and homes in the U.S. that we’ve come to expect them everywhere.

But during our recent trip to the regions of Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, we stayed in three different hotels and two vacation rental homes, and could count the number of washcloths we found on one finger.

Why aren’t there washcloths in Italy? It depends on whom you ask:

I’m not sure I can answer that. It makes no sense. Most hotels have another kind of towel, the asciugamano ospite (a guest towel), usually the size of a washcloth that they put over the bidet for that specific use. So I strongly suggest you never use these towels as a washcloth!

Flora Pinotti Sano, a Brazilian ex-pat and blogger living in Bologna

Are those the very tiny little towels you (British, French and German) use to wash yourself under the shower? If yes, we do not use them at home and I guess, consequently, they naturally do not provide them at hotels. We use “personal” sea sponges or brushes or loofah gloves at home.

An Italian friend born and living in Rimini

Stack of washcloths available from

Stack of colorful washcloths available from

Well you can file this under another one of those hygiene obsessions that Italians have. They think that something so “personal” shouldn’t simply be washed and passed onto another person. They’d rather have their own sponge and throw it away when it’s been used up. Then again, they think we’re obsessive with our overuse of hand sanitizer. Go figure.

Rick Zullo, an American ex-pat and blogger living in Rome. One of his most popular blog posts: Why do Italians use the bidet

Washcloths are common in private houses and many BnBs. Unfortunately, hotels in past and recent years had many washcloths stolen. I know this sounds weird for a non-Italian person but it is true. For this reason, many hotels decided not to provide them anymore.

An Italian friend born and living in Pisa

Actually, I can’t think of any other country (and I’ve only traveled in Europe) that routinely uses washcloths. I think the reason is that most people in other nations use liquid soap or a bath gel rather than soap bars so you just squirt some on your hand rather than rubbing the soap into a washcloth. I grew up using a washcloth but lost the habit…a washcloth gets cold quickly and feels soggy. So I don’t think it’s an Italian thing, just a learned preference.

Dianne R. Hales, award-winning author of La Bella Lingua. She blogs at Becoming Italian Word by Word. Her latest book is Mona Lisa, A Life Discovered.

The bottom line

Colorful washcloths available at Target

Colorful washcloths available at Target

The use of washcloths seems to be an artifact of culture. If you rely on them, you may or may not find washcloths in Italy unless your hotel caters to Americans.

Some seasoned travelers pack old ones (disposing of them after use) or do the same with an old cut up towel.

Others pack an inexpensive stack of colorful washcloths (available at TJ Maxx, Target or Amazon). If they are in bright colors, they don’t get mixed up with white hotel towels. They can be thrown away after use or carried to your next accommodation. (If one is still damp, tuck it in one of those indispensable-when-traveling Ziploc bags.)

  • Reply
    Rick Zullo
    July 7, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Just one more of those cultural idiosyncrasies that makes Italy such an interesting destination!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

      I think so too! I would travel to Italy, even without a washcloth, in a heartbeat! Thanks for your contribution~

  • Reply
    Laura K
    July 7, 2016 at 11:01 am

    I love a washcloths (my husband calls them “your wet rags”) and that’s a great tip to pack one for traveling to Italy/Europe. I noticed they didn’t often have one in hotels there, and didn’t know why; the little quotes you have help explain.

    My favorite hotel washcloth experience was at the beautiful Saratoga Arms in Saratoga Springs. All their linens were white but they had a plush black washcloth hanging on a hook in the bathroom that was embroidered with the word “Makeup.” You could wash your face with that and not feel guilty about ruining a bright white washcloth!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      What a cute idea!

      • Reply
        December 7, 2022 at 5:56 am

        Steamy hot washcloths were an integral part of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis facial regimen as they are to my mére and mine!

  • Reply
    July 8, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    What a fun read! Personally, I would never travel outside North America without packing a washcloth. I guess old habits die hard.

  • Reply
    Janice Chung
    July 11, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    THIS was a great idea for a post! At times, even in France you won’t find washcloths which is why I brought my own! Oddly enough the washcloth “mitt” I bought in France were very popular in stores.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 11, 2016 at 6:42 pm

      Glad you liked the post. Thanks for the tip/warning about France! 🙂

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    July 11, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I can get by without a washcloth but my husband relies on them. We got used to packing them from trips to the U.K. where you also don’t find them. We now pack wash clothes when traveling anywhere outside of the U.S. and Canada.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 13, 2016 at 9:36 am

      Same split in my house. My husband is washcloth-dependent. But he prefers bar soap and I prefer liquid shower gel.

  • Reply
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    July 12, 2016 at 3:26 am

    Love these practical posts, Irene! One of our must-pack items that we’ve carried around for years are the travel wash cloths extraordinare, LUNATEC, that we picked up on They’re lightweight, dry quickly and wrap easily around your travel shampoo. I’m beginning to sound like a commercial but these really are awesome and, another use I found for them is they’re great little scrubbers when you have to handwash your clothes! (I checked Amazon and they’re still selling them.)

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    July 13, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    It isn’t just Italy. You can’t find a wash cloth in Greece either – hotel or if you are furnishing a home. I’ve looked for them from designer bathroom stores to convenience stores and have since packed stacks of them purchased in the US for our house there. Our first houseguests last fall who’d spent three weeks in Spain, exclaimed when they saw them, that ‘finally!’ they had wash cloths — they had been non-existent in Spain as well.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 14, 2016 at 9:00 am

      That’s quite interesting that they are tough to find in stores as well as hotels.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    July 13, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Most European countries don’t provide washcloths in hotels. I found that also in Indonesia. That is an item you should always just carry with you in your suitcase. It might come in handy for other things as well. I have been known to use a handtowel when there is no washcloth.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 14, 2016 at 9:00 am

      That’s the lesson I learned….I guess because my stay was a longer one, I really missed those damn washcloths!

  • Reply
    July 13, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    We don’t use them at home so we didn’t even notice they didn’t have them in hotels in Italy 🙂 interesting post.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 14, 2016 at 8:58 am

      I thought my difficulty finding one answer was the interesting part:-) Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    July 14, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I\\\’ve noticed the absence of washcloths while traveling in other countries too. I have to say I really don\\\’t miss them anymore and have stopped using them at home too. We have a big stack of them in the linen closet!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 15, 2016 at 8:17 am

      You could start clearing out your closet by traveling with them one at a time:-)

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    July 18, 2016 at 9:02 am

    I came across the black makeup washcloth in a series of B+B’s I stayed in the Kennebunks. I thought that was a genius idea and would certainly make then last a lot longer as mascara removal would’t stain them. I do always throw a small very thin cotton hand towel from India (almost like gauze) in my luggage. It comes in so handy for a variety of uses.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Funny that – when I was working in a hotel in Ireland, American guests often asked for washcloths and I didn’t even know what they were! I don’t know why you would need a cloth for washing yourself – I assume most Europeans just use their hands or possibly a sponge. It’s the little differences…

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