WTF Weds: Signs in Sorrento, Italy

Posted on
Jul 2, 2014

My presumption with any warning sign, or really any sign at all, is that it exists for a reason. Like, you wouldn’t put a warning sign that says “Watch Your Step!” unless a dozen or so people had tripped on that particular spot. No sign, I figure, is unsolicited or unprovoked.

Which is why the two that I saw in Sorrento, near the docks for the ferries to Capri, were so darn delightful. Because they do not feel unsolicited. They feel like a specific response to the crazy actions of southern Italians.

This was the sign in the bathroom. When I first saw it, I thought I was hallucinating, because NOTHING could be so magical. Notice, also, that it isn’t translated. Do you know why? Because NO ONE BUT ITALIANS WOULD THINK TO DO THIS THING IN THE FIRST PLACE.



Honestly, how many people washed their feet in the sink before they put that sign up? Doesn’t that sort of fall into the “common sense” category? And yet, it must have been a pretty severe problem for it to have necessitated a sign. They even underlined “forbidden” twice.

This one is even more alarming.


IT IS A SIGN WARNING YOU TO NOT DRIVE YOUR CAR INTO THE WATER. Because apparently that was a problem. So now there is a sign.

Keep in mind, this was the docks to ferries. It was a pedestrian-only area, where cars weren’t allowed. I don’t even know how you’d get one here, unless you broke through several security gates and took out a fence or two and then DROVE OVER A CEMENT PYLON. And yet despite all those blockades, there were still enough people driving cars in this area that they had to erect a sign letting them know that they shouldn’t DRIVE THOSE CARS STRAIGHT INTO THE WATER.


God, I love my people.

Leave a Comment

  • Virginia

    Do you know when you frolic at the sea- or in the countryside and then later get home, mellow and happy with your feet encrusted in sand, dirt and debris?
    Then is when we head to the sink to wash our feet. It is the same reason for which we have bidets! (which incidentally can be the recipients of our dirt ablutions as well)

    It all makes sense on our resourceful minds 🙂

  • Anisa

    I saw a sign similar to the second one down by the docks in Dublin. I also took a picture of it and was wondering how many people went over the docks into the water that required a sign to be put up. I guess it is just not the Italians doing this.

    • I definitely remember this sign in Ireland! I remember we were on this little wooden dock in the middle of nowhere, where no car could have feasibly gotten to anyway and this sign was at the end of the dock.

  • Ermel

    Much as I hate to spoil your delight, I think you’re over-interpreting the second sign. There’s an almost identical traffic sign in Germany that is officially translated to mean “Ufer”, waterside — and it is being put up wherever there is a danger of any traffic mistakenly falling into the water. And traffic includes cyclists and pedestrians.

    Great blog, btw. I’ve been a silent reader for more than a year.

    Yours, Ermel.

  • Patti

    It reminds me of a sign I saw by a marina in Portland, Maine: “All cars beyond this point will be launched.”

  • Actually, seeing people wash their feet in the bathroom is a fairly common sighting in Malaysia around prayer time. It’s annoying because they get water all over the floor and the sinks are full of tiny ladies in long dresses with their legs hiked up onto the sink.

  • Nicki

    Similar to what Lindsay said, I used to work at a school where a large proportion of the students were Muslim. We actually had to put up the same sign because many of students would wash for prayer (feet included) using the bathroom sinks. Perhaps this area has a large population of Muslim folks passing through?

  • I have seen the first sign in bathrooms near beaches, as people like to wash their feet because of all the sand sticking to their feet. But elsewhere, it doesn’t make any sense. The second sign is absolutely hilarious 🙂

  • Heidi

    Got to wonder how many injuries occur from precariously trying to balance on one leg with a foot in the sink. And then you’ve probably got bags or babies or who knows what on a dirty floor that is wet from previous feet washers-at least we hope it is wet from feet washers rather than the alternative. Maybe the place with the warning sign had too many insurance claims from injuries. I could hike my foot up into the sink to wash it, but it may not be a simple feat.

  • I once saw a sign posted in Bangkok that said, “No Balloon.” It had me wondering what extreme thing could have happened with a single, solitary balloon that they were now banned in the area.

  • Ed

    Let me see…I’ve learned that I can at least wash my feet off the dock and possibly wash my car in the sink of that rest room…good to know…

  • That makes perfect sense!

    I just wish there were more signs saying one shouldn’t bump into trees while going in reverse or eating slices of pizza while driving.

    That would have saved me some upsetting moments in the past 10 years; now I realize it all happened because of a disappointing lack of signalization!

  • Amy

    There was actually a similar incident in my town in the 1970s where a well-known actor managed to drive his car through a barrier and off a bridge. Luckily it had a safety net so he didn’t end up in the water, but you might be amused by the details!

    Maybe we could do with a few of those signs?!

  • I don’t think my feet have ever been so dirty that I felt the need to wash them in the sink. I’m questioning whether I could even get my leg that far up and actually into the sink in a washable orientation…

  • Carrie

    I agree with some commenters above that the people who washed their feet in the sink were probably Muslims preparing for prayer. Hopefully the forbidding of this practice (and the tone of the note) was related to mess rather than something else.

    But who knows. I can also picture a few of my friends washing their feet in a sink if they were between hotels/hostels. And definitely making a mess.

  • I was just in Sorrento! Unfortunately, I missed seeing these gems. Italy was full of things that just made me stop and laugh though. I love it!

  • haha hilarious!

  • Luigi

    as an Italian, I know we miss bidets. The first time I observed someone washing their feet in the sink was when I was a mere 24-year-old, visiting Denmark, and the woman who was leaving me her place to house-sit for a long weekend was getting ready to leave and washing her feet in the KITCHEN SINK !
    I ate in restaurants the whole weekend.

More from The Blog

On Instagram @theeverywhereist

  • Wonderful show with the most handsome man in the world. #osf
  • The meals that my beloved is able to make in tiny AirBnB kitchenettes never ceases to amaze me.
  • It begins! So excited, @osfashland!
  • Take note: if you ask your husband if you can move to NYC roughly four dozen times, he will start to cave a little.
  • Incredible reading by the love of my life to a packed room at NeueHouse Madison Square. So proud of you, @randderuiter, and the amazing emcee work by @michaeliconking.
  • Re-posting this photo that @wilreynolds took of us and his youngest near the beach outside of Lisbon. We're back home now, and I can't decide what I miss more: this little guy and his brother, or Portugal. Actually, scratch that. I know.
  • This place looks like a damn fairy tale.
  • Lunch with a view of the water, and some of the best seafood of my life.
  • The entire drive from Sintra to Lisbon looks like this. It's just miles of blue sky and rocky beaches.
  • No filter. This is just what Sintra looks like.

All Over The Place

Buy my book and I promise I'll never ask you for anything again.