A bitter row between neighbours over a lavatory’s thunderous flush has finally been resolved after becoming bogged down for nearly 20 years in the Italian legal system.
The saga began in 2003 when four brothers installed a lavatory in a seaside apartment in the north-western Golfo dei Poeti or Gulf of Poets, named because of the many writers, from Byron to Shelley and DH Lawrence, who lived there.
There was nothing lyrical about the argument that ensued, however. The husband and wife who lived next door said the loo’s noisy flush kept them up at night, with their bedstead up against the connecting wall and their bedroom too small for the furniture to be rearranged.
They took the case to a court in the nearby city of La Spezia, saying the noise of the flush was “intolerable” – but that complaint was thrown out by a judge.
They then referred it to an appeal court in Genoa, which ordered an inspection of the two apartments and found the flush was so loud that it “prejudiced the quality of life” of the couple.
Unhappy with the verdict, the four brothers challenged it, taking the case to the Supreme Court in Rome. But judges there have found in favour of the couple, ruling that the loud lavatory “infringed on their right to a good night’s sleep”.
The court ordered the brothers to remove the noisy cistern and to pay their neighbours €500 compensation for every year since the complaint was first made in 2003 – amounting to €9,500.
One newspaper, Il Giornale, said the saga was reminiscent of Kafka. “It seems like a comedy, but it’s not, this is the reality of the judiciary and the reason why the Italian justice system doesn’t work.
“In far less time than this case took, Albert Einstein wrote the theory of relativity, explaining the whole Universe. At the judicial level, we are a great big, gigantic clogged loo.”
Another paper, La Repubblica, commented: “After 19 years of legal battles, the flush will finally be silenced.”
Italy’s justice system is notoriously slow, with cases taking years and even decades to grind through the courts.
Defendants have the right to two levels of appeal – first to an appeals court and then to the Supreme Court in Rome.
The congested system is blamed for hindering foreign investment in Italy, where the economy has barely grown in 20 years.