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Where bidets are more common than phones

The word “bidet” has become synonymous with France. This is with good reason: the bidet is believed to have been invented there and the word itself is, in fact, the French word for “little pony” (more on that). And while bidets tend to be incredibly popular in France, it is another European nation that has adopted the bidet like no other: Italy.

Yes, that Italy.

And if you’re asking yourself how popular are bidets, actually? Well, you’ll find one in 97% of homes across the country. To put that in perspective, only 94% of homes have televisions, 74% have Internet access and less than 80% have phones (smart or otherwise).

Wondering how this happened? Read on.

Why Italy?

As mentioned, the bidet is believed to have been invented and named in France. While this is true, the first written reference to a bidet dates back to 1726—a reference penned by none other than Maria Carolina of Austria, Queen of Naples and Sicily. In her letter, Maria requested a bidet for her personal bathroom in the Royal Palace, located in Caserta, just north of Naples. (And if you’re wondering how an Austrian-born archduchess became ruler over Naples and Sicily…let’s just say her father was the Holy Roman Emperor and her husband was a big deal.)

At the time of her writing, a bidet would have been virtually unrecognizable compared to the porcelain bowls used today. Instead, it would most likely have been made of wood and resembled a stool or bench, similar to a chamber pot.

So, did Maria single-handedly sparked a hygiene revolution across the country? The consensus seems to be that it’s possible.

Status symbol?

Records from that time period are spotty. But some have theorized the rise in bidet popularity stemmed not from cleanliness, but from clout. Bidets were symbols of royalty. And unlike France, who did not look too favorably upon aristocracy, they were trend-setters in Italy. (Not-so-fun-fact: Marie Antoinette was Maria Carolina’s sister.)

Religious influence?

As daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor and having the City of Rome under her stewardship, Maria Carolina was brought up in a religious culture that celebrated purity and cleanliness—something that was not common in a time period when others were still wiping with cobs of corn (not a joke).

Contrary to what some may say, that religious prudishness has prevented the bidet from becoming commonplace across the world, evidence indicates that this forward-thinking sense of hygiene paired with a strong religious influence has done anything but—at least in Italy.

Bidet laws

You read that correctly. Since the 1975, Italian building codes mandate that bidets be installed in every bathroom.

Why?

As part of a reform to improve hygienic conditions across the country.

The truth is, bidet laws (both religious and secular) are not unique to Italy. For example, most Islamic countries follow and enforce a code known as Qadaa' al-Haajah that encourages believers to wash after defecation. But the adoption level in Italy is truly staggering and probably one of the most significant causes of their commonplace across the country.

(It should be noted that in Islamic countries, they prefer “bidet showers,” which are more closely related to a sink sprayer than a toilet.)

Types of bidets you’ll see

If you visit Italy, you’ll see all types of bidets: portable bidets, stand-alone bidets, bidet attachments, bidet showers, bidet seats and all-in-one units.

The most common for that region are stand-alone bidets since today’s all-in-one bidets, bidet attachments and bidet seats (like the Coway Bidetmega models) were not even invented until the last decade or so.

So is a bidet right for you?

Well, you know the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans Do?” Romans use bidets. Maybe you should too.