Most of my clients’ itineraries are between about 7 and 25 days, and so the question of how to wash clothing while traveling in Italy often arises as we’re getting into the details, especially when there are small children or hot weather forecasts involved. People are often surprised that it’s not as simple as popping over to a laundromat for a couple hours. There are essentially four options for doing laundry while traveling, outlined below.
If you rent a villa, expect it to have a washing machine, but for any other type of accommodation, don’t assume a washer will be available (or an elevator or air conditioning but those are different posts). If you’re renting an apartment or staying at a farmhouse, access to a washing machine is more likely – but still not a given. And when you do find accommodation with a washing machine, don’t expect to also have a dryer. Most Italians hang their clothes on a line to dry – hence all those lovely laundry photos you’ll be able to take in Italy!
The bottom line is that if you absolutely need to have an onsite washing machine, know that it’s possible to find; you’ll just have to spend some time delving into the details when booking your accommodations. For example in Florence, the Residenza D’Epoca Via Santo Spirito 6 is reasonably priced, in a central location, and has a washing machine guests can use for free.
Hotels provide laundry service for a fee: you give them your dirty laundry, they send it out to a local laundromat and return it to you the next day, washed and ironed. The only downside is that it’s incredibly expensive – about 2 EUR per pair of socks, as you can see from the price list below that I pulled from one of my favorite 4-star hotels. When I worked as a guide leading week-long biking and hiking trips, one time I ended up time-crunched with just a couple days between the end of one trip and the start of the next, and a ton of prep work to do. Since I absolutely needed to start my new trip with a suitcase of clean clothes, I used the hotel’s laundry service and it cost me over 200 EUR. Many of my clients opt for this solution, since they have limited vacation time and want to make the most of it, so the cost is worth the time they save. Plus your clothing will be delivered back to you washed and dried and ironed and neatly folded.
You could also visit the town’s lavanderia and drop your clothing off yourself (specifying that it’s for washing, not dry cleaning) and pick it up yourself the next day. Unless the lavanderia is next door to your hotel, this option is slightly more time consuming and slightly less expensive but it still comes back washed, dried, and pressed.
I planned a three-week, three-generation trip for clients who told me that they absolutely had to find somewhere to do the baby’s laundry about halfway through the trip; there was just no way they could pack enough clothing for her. I sent them the price list from their Amalfi Coast hotel and they balked. Couldn’t I find them a laundromat where they could go hang out for the day? As it turned out, the closest self-service laundromat was in Sorrento, which was over 30 miles away. But, laundromats do exist. To find self-service laundromats that will work for your itinerary, go to google maps, use the “search nearby” function, and type in “lavanderia self service“. As you’ll see when you do this, they are few and far between — but you never know, you might get lucky. And, note, if you do find one, allow at least half a day, because for some reason Italian washing machine cycles are longer than North American ones.
It says a lot that this is what Italians do when they go on vacation. They bring detergent with them and so should you, if only as a back-up or to help in a pinch. It doesn’t hurt to ask the hotel for a plastic tub; often they will lend you one. Hang your clothes to dry in the bathroom, and ask your hotel whether there is an iron you can borrow (again, not a given in Italian hotel rooms though the front desk will usually have one you can borrow for a few hours). Then go spend your time and money exploring what Italy has to offer – including, I’m betting, snapping photos of laundry hanging to dry.
Photos of laundry in post of Naples and Venice by Sanjay Jhawar; featured photo of laundry in Venice by clients Aarsby-Kail.
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