Why is there a Pull Cord in Hotel Bathrooms in Italy?

Many bathrooms in Italy have a shower/tub combination where the bottom of the tub is several inches higher than the bathroom floor, and you might notice a thin cord dangling down from the wall that looks similar to a clothesline but has a very different use.

Instead of a full shower door there is usually a partial door made of glass that easily moves to and fro. Sometimes it doesn’t even meet the tub and the bottom of the “door” is several inches up. This makes it more like a glass panel that simply shields part of the room from water. Taking a shower perched up high without a full door to block the spray, water coats the already smooth floor tiles with a slickness seen at ice skating rinks.

After showering, stepping out of the tub can be a tricky endeavor and even those of you with the keen balance of a gymnast may find yourself slip sliding around as you gingerly step out and over the tub onto the floor way down below, trying to avoid hitting your knee or head on the tub, vanity or the floor tiles.

If you start to fall and reach out in panic, that’s where that thin tub/shower cord comes in handy. If you yank the cord on your way down, or pull it once already splayed on the floor with legs akimbo, an alarm is designed to ring on a master panel in the hotel. Upon hearing the buzz, an employee will grab a copy of your key, quickly come into to your room to offer you assistance and get you medical help for your cracked knee or broken elbow.

The cord complies with building code requirements all over Italy that mandate an emergency pull cord in bathrooms. Even if you are staying in a 5 star luxury property with separate tub and shower like the Park Hyatt Milan you’ll still find the cords.

Of course, it seems that some curious hotel guests cannot help themselves from “accidentally” pulling the cord even when there is no emergency.

To deal with this, some hotels have added a sticker with the word “alarm” to tape the cord down in hopes that attempts to use the string as a clothesline will be thwarted.

There is a cord requirement, but no standardization for the response to people pulling it, so you can never be quite sure what will happen if you pull it. You may get a casual phone call just to make sure you are ok, or it could be a long wait if the alarm panel has (accidentally) been disabled after too many annoying tourist tugs. Your face might end up awash with embarrassment if you accidentally pull the cord and then a team of people tear into your room to check on your safety.

Of course, now that you know what they are, you may start to notice them more and even laugh a little when seeing them. Oddly enough, the emergency pull cord isn’t always in the most convenient place.

Who could reach this cord?
Who could reach this cord if they’ve fallen and need help?

Have you ever (accidentally, of course) pulled one of these cords?


  1. Randall says

    Of course, an alternative to cords and rescue missions would be eliminating the risk by using a door that prevents the water from escaping to the floor….

    • Melinda Danielsen says

      It seems like such an easy solution, Randall. I shake my head over why it hasn’t been implemented. Perhaps there is big money to be made there. But what would be the fun in a functional door? When you finally get on firm ground aka out of the bathroom without cracking a kneecap, it feels like such an accomplishment.

  2. Askmrlee says

    The IC Thalasso in Bora Bora has steam spas which I believe are made in Italy and they have an emergency button inside. My wife pushed it by mistake as it was dark inside and located near other buttons. and it made a chime sound and someone checked up on her. Embarrassed but they told her it happens often.

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