Saturday, January 14, 2006


In talking with our newly arrived expat friends about the differences between what's standard in Italy and what’s standard in the U.S, I thought it might be helpful to jot down a few notes about what worked, what didn’t and what I wish I’d known then that I know now…..

• If I had it to do all over again I think I’d install ALL drawers and no cabinets with doors in the base units. Not only can you store LOTS more stuff in the drawers, you can also see and get to everything sooooo much more easily!

• If you do decide to go with the more traditional base cabinets with doors, be aware that they aren’t made like they are in the states, with a drawer at the top then a door below. All of the base cabinets I’ve seen here in Italy have only the door….NO DRAWERS! For this reason, make sure you will have a drawer stack for all those things that just need to be in a drawer….silverware, assorted kitchen tools, table linens, etc.

• I’d also install a larger cooktop. The one I have is a 5 burner cooktop, but because it’s only 26 ½ ” wide, if you put a really large pot (or griddle) on the center burner there’s really no room for other pots.

• I think I’d also go with a larger, “American-style” oven….one large enough to hold a turkey….not that you’d ever find a whole turkey to roast, but anyway…. My ideal would be to have two ovens like my daughter does….a smaller convection oven and a standard size oven. Having a larger oven like this might require buying a one piece cooktop/oven combo like we normally see in the states, but that would be a small price to pay. My oven now measures 16” wide, 15” deep and 13” high.

• Thank God I brought a Fahrenheit/Celsius oven thermometer with me! I’ve needed it more to correct the inaccuracy of my oven than anything else. Perhaps an electric oven would be more accurate, but I can’t say for sure. My gas oven seems to jump from 325º to 475º and back again for no apparent reason.

• I do know that the gas oven it cheaper to use than an electric one, BUT if you have the standard 3.3kw service, using an electric oven might cause a fuse to trip if you’re also using other high demand appliance like an iron or a clothes dryer. Check your options and choose wisely.

• Another thing I learned the hard way is that if you tell the electrician you want a plug here….and here….and here….then each plug will only have ONE outlet, not the two you’d expect to get in the states. In our case each outlet has space for three things, so you can have 3 plugs, 2 plugs and a switch, etc.

• When I ordered a stainless steel sink I knew enough to make sure that the sink would be deep enough. What I didn’t know was to make sure that the double sink was made as a one piece unit, as it normally would be in the states. As a result, every time I move the faucet from one sink to the other I splash water all over the countertop.

• I think I’d also like my sinks to be a little larger and to have a goose-neck faucet to accommodate those large pasta pots. At least I can change the faucet, which I plan to do soon.

• I’ve had great difficulty finding wire racks, turntables and other such kitchen aids here and have brought most of them from the states. I’ve even used the wire racks to utilize the space in my freezer more efficiently. I am starting to see these racks, and eventually they might become common here. For now, plan ahead!

• I do love the racks for drying dishes here! It keeps the sink free for rinsing stuff and keeps the clutter hidden. Although we only have one rack, it's also possible to have two racks, one above the other.

• The refrigerators in Italy are generally taller and skinnier than the ones in the states, although side-by-sides are quite common….at least in the appliance stores. Make sure that the model you choose has both a frost-free freezer AND refrigerator. Although more and more units have frost-free freezers, this isn’t always the case. Of course maybe you LIKE spending the day holding your blow drier in the freezer!

• For appliances in general, make sure you buy ones that are rated “A” or “A+” for a more efficient, and therefore less expensive, appliance. Also, if you don’t establish formal residency in Italy within a certain time period your utility costs will be higher

• I LOVE the rack systems that mount on the wall behind and above the countertops! This keeps the clutter on the countertop down and keeps everything you need on a regular basis right there where you need it.

• Although dishwashers and disposals are available, we didn’t install either one, so I can’t offer any advice or information.

• In most cases I wouldn’t bring any electric appliance from the states to Italy. This would require using a voltage converter which takes up counter space and would just be a pain, in my opinion.

• I did talk with the electrician before the kitchen was installed to ensure that I had not only enough plugs, but also so he could wire for some under-the-cabinet lighting. For some reason, energy savings I guess, Italians don’t seem to need as much light as we do. I bought three under-mount fluorescent lights and Elvio hard-wired these in for us.

• Another thing I wish I'd thought about, since the floor had to be taken up anyway, was under-floor heat! For our kitchen on the ground floor, this would have been so nice! The large room that is our kitchen has only one large radiator at the front of the room, and it’s just not adequate. Of course the fireplace doesn’t add any appreciable heat, just a feeling of warmth. Under-floor heating would have really made a difference in this room, but once again, a day late and a dollar short!

• And while not strictly kitchen, let’s talk about washers and dryers. A year or so ago I saw a washer that had both hot and cold water inlets instead of the usual cold water only. This is a new thing in Italy and hopefully this style will become easier to find. IF you’re planning to do remodeling, it might be worth having both hot and cold water run to your washer location. If you can’t find a washer with the dual inlets, you can still run both hot and cold water to the washer but you’d have to turn on the hot water while the machine fills, then turn the hot water off and the cold water on for the rinse cycle. Because we’re on mains gas and have a caldaia to heat the water, I think it’s cheaper to heat the water with gas then to have the washer do it with electricity.

• Checking to see if your area has hard water will extend the life of your washer and of all your other appliances, pots and pans and plumbing. If you can’t afford a water softener be sure to use some sort of anti-calcare additive along with your detergent.

• Dryers in Italy work on a completely different system! The water is extracted from the clothes and then pumped out….either into a holding tank that must be emptied, or directly into the plumbing. Although the direct method is best, the pipe that carries the water is still only about 1 inch in diameter, so a “normal” load of laundry can take up to 2 hours to dry! If you do buy a dryer, make sure to get one with a large drum so that the clothes have plenty of room to tumble. Again, look for an “A” or “A+” rating for the most efficiency. I’ve never heard of a gas dryer in Italy, only electric.


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