A traveler’s guide to doing laundry in Italy

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.

Naples Italy laundry

The best but least likely option: accommodation with a washing machine available for guests’ use.

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.

 

The most efficient but most expensive option: laundry service.

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.

 

Italy hotel laundry price list

The time-consuming, inexpensive option: find a self-service laundromat.

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.

Venice Italy hanging laundry

The most realistic option for doing laundry in Italy: your hotel sink.

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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Posted by on Jul 23, 2013 in Planning Your Italy Trip | 11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Dawn Spsoato
    July 23, 2013

    I don’t understand why Americans are so adverse to hand washing a few undies and hanging them up to dry in their room?

    I’d rather do that then pack 3 weeks worth of clothes!

    Reply
  2. Madeline
    July 23, 2013

    That’s what I do too Dawn, when I travel on my own. Seems like kids, very hot weather, and hiking itineraries (which I create a lot of) produce lots of dirty laundry — usually a family of 4 or 5 will have a full load of dirty laundry after a week on the road (so that’s often when we try to book an agriturismo with washing machine) and that much is tough to do in the sink. But, if you do a little bit every day, it’s manageable for sure.

    Reply
  3. Roy
    July 23, 2013

    I stay at at a hotel and hostel in Florence that has coin-operated washers and dryers for guests. While my stuff is washing, I do other things in neighborhood. I takes a long time for jeans to dry by themselves, so I really do try to find a place with a dryer. My other trick is that I pack old socks and T-shirts I can part with. Along the way, I just throw them away or donate to charity, and then buy new ones. Cheaper to buy socks than to pay someone to wash them.

    Reply
    • Madeline
      July 23, 2013

      Roy great that you have found that place! Agree re the jeans… and if they are hung up they get really crunchy. Interesting idea, packing stuff to donate – probably true it’s cheaper to buy new ones!

      Reply
  4. Kathy
    July 23, 2013

    I always use the sink and hang dry when traveling. Instead of packing laundry detergent, I use shampoo or soap. It works well! I especially love the hotels in Europe which have towel warmers, they dry things quickly.

    Reply
    • Madeline
      July 23, 2013

      Towel warmers! That is brilliant. BRILLIANT. Especially for socks and things that take forever to dry.

      Reply
  5. Victoria
    July 24, 2013

    Having faced the problem of laundry, I started to appreciate public laundromats – especially for long-stay matters. Not so cheap, however, if you need to do it frequently, but there are possible sollutions like doing the laundry with a friend or scheduling “white” and “black” weeks – that’s what I do.

    Reply
    • Madeline
      July 26, 2013

      good idea Victoria, thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  6. Lesley Jones
    August 18, 2013

    It’s so easy just to rinse a few things out every evening and then they dry overnight. I think there are too many fun things to do here to waste time sitting in a laundrette if you don’t have to 🙂

    Lesley

    Reply
  7. Kay
    January 11, 2015

    I’ve traveled to Italy for three months at a time for years. Now I live here. From the first 90 days I washed my clothes in the kitchen basin and hung to dry. Some hotels will lend a drying rack. After October you can use the heated towel racks to dry clothes. Jeans dry wrinkle free if you hang them right. I think too many Americans have come a custom to convenience and it leaves them stranded to improvise. Italy is not convenient it is an adventure!

    Reply
  8. Rick
    March 9, 2015

    I used Dri Fit clothes. Comfortable, easy to wash and quick to dry.

    Reply

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