It is getting cold and at the moment and we don’t want to use the central heating, because our gas does not come from the mains, it is delivered by a tanker and it costs a fortune. The first year we lived in Italy we received a 998.00 euro gas bill for two winter months. We are now pretty frugal and stay warm with jumpers and shivering. So last night on the way home from work I purchased an electric heater for the bathroom (don’t mention electricity and bathrooms as that is the least of my problems) Purchasing this one item started a argument   discussion  with Mrs Sensible on ‘why does Italy have to be so complicated’. I tried to use the difference between Italian and English plugs as an example to no avail.

In the UK we have 2 plugs. The standard fused plug.

For any Italians reading this we have a fuse in the plug for safety and we don’t use sellotape to join the wires together.

The two pin shaver plug.

UK Shaver plug

UK Two pin shaver plug

We also have a simple adapter should you want to use the shaver in a standard plug socket.

UK Adapter

All very nice and easy. It is because we have an organisation in the UK called the British Standards Institution (BSI) based in Chiswick London who try to keep things orderly and simple. Don’t misunderstand me the Italians also have an organisation it is probably based in Napoli and will go by the initials UGC or the longer form Uno Grande Casino (a big mess). In the office of UGC Giuseppe will scratch his ear with his chewed pencil and try to work out how to make life more complicated for the average Italian. If he isn’t devising a new law that requires new electrical heaters to be fitted with non standard plugs he will be drafting new laws that contradict existing laws.

Back to the plugs.

In Italy they have standardised on lots of plugs. They have the two pin plug that is very similar to the UK shaver plug. Don’t try to use it in an English shaver socket as it won’t fit unless you modify it with a pair of pliers by bending the pins.

Small two pin plug

 The small three pin plug that is found on laptops, hoovers and small heaters

Small three pin plug

And the large three pin plug that is also found on computers, hoovers and small heaters

Large three pin plug

The strange and very stupid appliance plug that is found on washing machines, dish washers and cookers.

Appliance plug

Our house should be fitted with these elongated plug sockets
so that at least two of the plugs will fit. Unfortunately the house was refurbished by an Italian and we have some rooms with large sockets and some with small sockets and nowhere is there a  socket to accommodate the appliance plug. What we do have is an assortment of adaptors that enable us to fit a large plug into a small socket or a small plug into a large socket.

We also have adapters so that we can fit the appliance plug into small or large sockets. But they are always hard to find. I can buy 3 of each and two weeks later they have vanished.

To make life even more interesting we have a toaster, kettle, hoover and various lights that still have UK plugs fitted. Four years ago I did consider removing the UK plugs and change them for Italian plugs. I was dissuaded as soon as I realised that Italian plugs do not contain fuses and I couldn’t choose between large or small Italian plugs.

To plug my reading lamp that has a UK plug on it,  into my bedroom socket I need to use a European UK/Italian adapter.

I also need to use a  large to small Italian adapter and a three-way adapter so that I can use my laptop at the same time.

Utter madness!!!

One evening after pondering the plug problem over a glass of grappa I devised the perfect solution, I would standardise all our sockets and plugs, we would use one size only. In fact we would swap to the English Standard. I would order from Amazon 30 UK sockets and a bag full of UK plugs. Mrs Sensible said no.

I tried to negotiate, I pleaded, I cried, and I gnashed my teeth but still she said no. So I am stuck with the Italian system, I think my wife was worried that I was trying to create a little bit of England in Italy, something I could show to my Italian friends when they came around to our house for shepherd’s pie and brown ale.

And the little heater I bought, which plug did it have? Of course an appliance plug.

11 thoughts on “Electrickery

  1. This had me laughing out loud!
    It made me recall the time when I first moved out here and my husband sat down, amputated about 20 perfectly safe UK plugs off all my appliances I had had shipped over, and fitted them with a tremedous assortment of all the plugs you have illustrated here. He used copious amounts of sticky tape inside them. He also made sure the first 2cm of wires sticking out of the plug were peeled down to the coloured layer of plastic, which I understand is one of the Italian UGC safety regulations.
    You forgot to mention, though, that another UGC regulation is that any supply of flowing water must have an electric socket very close to it, or ideally, over it, such as a socket over the sink so it gets splashed regularly, and one above the hotplates on the hob so that the wires get melted when you’re cooking. Or else…don’t tell me your house is in violation of this safety standard?


    • They are fab over here with the electrics. In our first house I watched the landlord who was a builder change the thermostat. He needed to replace the live (red wire) but his replacement red wire was not long enough so he used an earth wire (Green/yellow). He then used sellotape to keep them together. I dread changing anything here because you can not trust the wires or the guy who might have played around with the wires before you.


  2. I know what you mean. Recently I visited my brother in Italy, had my computer with me and had to use THREE plugs, one into the other, in order to plug it into the socket in the wall….. I asked him why they still have so many different sizes/types and he said “come on, you know this is Italy”….. I think is because some big cheese owns a factory making some of these plugs, or has a huge stock in some chinese warehouse, and they need to sell them…..ciao!


  3. What a great blog to read for an expat Italian who is well aware of all the daily weirdness of Italians. Even in the U.S. I don’t escape the thing because if buy an Italian gadget or machine that has that beautiful designer look the item generally has something weird about it in the practical application of its use.
    I never owned a Ferrari Dino 1974, a car now worth heavy money, but I know that it is so designed for beauty that to give it gas is very difficult since the access to the tank is squashed flat on the upper side under some designer wing and very hard to use.
    That landlord who fixed the wiring was doing a very old Italian thing: inventing a solution on the spot.
    I still have that penchant, to the dismay of my children grown in America, where one does not fix but replace….


  4. Italy is a wonderful place, We are nearly at the end of October and as far as I am concerned it is still warm enough for flip flop, T shirt and Shorts (when in the garden) While most Italians already have their scarfs wrapped around their necks to fend off Cervicale.


  5. Pingback: It’s flipping cold | Englishman in Italy

  6. Pingback: Sicily, Malta, string and a little bit of sticky back plastic. | Englishman in Italy

  7. OMG, you had me on the floor with this post. Our (British) contractor was appalled at the hot water heater that was installed over our bathtub with live wires hanging down. It was a toss-up whether to fix this first or to remove all the asbestos from the roof first!


    • We had a thermostat replaced. The “””electrician””” needed to extend the red live wire. Unfortunately the piece in his tool box was not long enough, so he used a length of green/yellow earth wire, he finished the job by neatly twisting them together and used a piece of electricians tape to hold them together. I was flabbergasted, I went to the spare room to fetch some red wire that I had and 2 small terminal boxes, but by the time I had returned everything was screwed back in place.


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