my second home

I am still not running and it looks like the Barcelona marathon is not going to happen for me, although I still harbor some small, delusional hope that my tendonitis will heal completely in the next few days and I will miraculously be able to go and run it, even if I have to take it verrrrrrry easy. And then of course that hope spills over into the fantasy that not only does it all heal up and I go to Barcelona thinking I will run slowly, but then I miraculously feel really, really good that day and somehow, without even realizing it, finish in no time at all and become to all effects the spectacularly talented and infinitely brave hero of my life and yes, Chariots of Fire is playing as I cross the finish. Well, maybe not that last part.

And then I either laugh out loud at myself or just feel wistful and very, very sad. Clearly having lost my main coping mechanism for pretty much every stressor in my life, I am becoming delusional. And also spending a lot of time at the pool. So, instead of filling these pages with my delusions of marathon grandeur or just plain self pity, I have tweaked a post from my old blog, originally dated October 2007, and I bring it to you here.

Italian pool rules

1. Shoes
Under no circumstances should you allow your dirty shoes to touch the tile floor of the changing room at the pool. Benches, rubber mats, and cubby holes are placed strategically near the door of every indoor pool in this country, where you are to remove your shoes and put on a pair of flip-flops that you have purchased specifically for pool use.
If you do not remove your shoes, for 50 Eurocents you can purchase a pair of plastic blue shoe covers for your shoes. Mothers, grandmothers, babysitters and the like who enter the changing areas in order to shower and dress children, dry their hair, and administer post-pool snacks (see point 6) generally use them.
The flip-flops should be worn at all times by all pool-goers capable of walking (the one- to two-year-old set are therefore not exempt from the flip-flop requirement) in all changing, shower and poolside areas. They may be removed only just before entering the water.
When you are changing, to prevent your feet from ever touching the tile floor, which is surely dirty despite being sanitized with the Zamboni-style floor cleaner every few hours, you will probably want to bring one of the rigid, fold-out mats that many Italians use to stand on as they dress, specifically created for this purpose.

2. Swimming caps
Swimming caps are to be worn at all times by all pool-goers, including bald babies. However, some bald men consider themselves exempt.
This rule is obviously to keep stray hairs from floating around in the water, and this rule always makes me wonder why they don’t come up with something for all those hairy chests.

3. Showering
There are signs on all available wall space demanding swimmers shower before entering the pool. These signs are largely there to scare foreign swimmers, as the Italian women rarely shower before entering the poolside area (unless they shower, then carefully dry off before proceeding to that area, which is a possibility this observer has yet to verify).
Further observation has revealed that only some Italian men obey the shower rule. It is not enforced by pool personnel, especially with respect to Italian women anxious to prevent their hair from getting wet. But the fear of someone shouting, “Ew! You haven’t showered!” is enough to get this foreign swimmer to rinse off.

4a. Hair
Hair should be COMPLETELY dry before leaving the locker room and subjecting the head to the dangerous climactic conditions outside, regardless of the season. This cannot be stressed enough. The dangers posed by leaving the pool structure with damp hair are frightening.
Italian pools provide hair dryers that make a tremendous amount of noise, but do not dry hair efficiently. This is so that Italian mothers can enjoy hours of quality time with their daughters and long-haired sons in the locker room while drying their hair, one strand at a time. Often, elaborate snacks are provided to such daughters and long-haired sons to keep them quiet during hair drying ordeal (see rule 6), despite signs in the locker rooms prohibiting the consumption of any food whatsoever in those areas.
Italian women generally bring their own hairdryers. I just keep my hair extremely short.

5. Bathrobes
The use of towels is not recommended. Bathrobes are the way to go. Said bathrobes should be left hanging on wall hooks by the side of the pool specifically for this purpose, so that swimmers can dry off before heading back into the showers, presumably to wet themselves again.
In the case of smaller children, the bathrobes should be worn until the very last moment before the children enter the pool, so they will not catch cold in the heated poolside area, and the bathrobes should be brought back to the children as they leave the water so they can be dried off IMMEDIATELY. This is so they will not catch cold and, presumably fall sick with pneumonia, on their way to the changing room and showers.
For your convenience, Italian shops offer a wide range of bathrobes, for adults, children and especially for the toddler set. As everyone knows, a plain old towel will just not do, unless one is drying off after the post-pool shower, in which case, the use of a towel is acceptable, but only as an accessory to the bathrobe.

6a. Food
Children are prohibited from consuming any food three to four hours before entering the pool.

6b. Food
As indicated on numerous signs, pool-goers are prohibited from introducing any and all foodstuffs into the locker room and poolside area at any time. Again, this is a rule primarily intended to scare foreign women who, as everyone knows, bring the wrong sort of food in.
As most Italian mothers know, their children will be starving after a swim: after all, they have not have eaten in hours. Accordingly, they should bring in an appropriate snack, like chips.


The crazy thing is all these rules seem perfectly normal to me now and I am almost weirded out when I go to an American pool. Also, I now prefer swimming with a swim cap on. Ha! I am becoming one of them.


About Jennifer

I'm a freelance translator and American expat. I live in Northern Italy with my two young sons.
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3 Responses to my second home

  1. Gilla says:

    I heard about using pools in Italy, but couldn’t even think it was as bad as this. I always thought that friends were making these things up.

  2. Sara says:

    But you left off the rule about men wearing Speedos! (they do wear them in Italy, right?) I honestly don’t know why I get creeped out by the Speedo, but I do…

    • Jennifer says:

      I am so used to the Speedos that I didn’t even think about it. Yes, they all wear Speedos. Men in baggy swimsuits look ridiculous to me now.

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