ELECTRICITY: WHAT's DIFFERENT (Than we're used to at "home")

...Wherever THAT is...


OK, this will be "What's different from the US", for the moment, as that's what Terry (King) knows...
Hopefully others will lend their perspective...

Both the "Euro Standard" and "Italian Standard" sockets and plugs are used. Both types are shown below.

"Euro" Type Plugs and Sockets:

external image 180px-Schuko_plug_and_socket.pn

external image 180px-CEE_7-7.jpg
The "safety ground" connection is the two metal strips at top and bottom of the plug.
Most plugs we see are made to fit both the sockets here, and another standard used in France, Tunisia etc. They look like this (right):

external image 180px-C_plug.jpg
Many low-power, ungrounded devices such as table lamps, small appliances etc, use a two-prong plug and socket that looks like this (left):

external image Ita_plug_16A_10A.jpgexternal image Italian_sockets.jpgItaly today has two different standards in wide use, the "Euro Standard" shown above and a legacy "Italian Standard" series of plugs and sockets shown on the right here. Note that there are two very similar plugs. One has larger diameter pins and is rated at 16 Amps and the other has smaller pins and is rated at 10Amps. The Sockets are different also, so the larger diameter 16 Amp plug will not fit into the 10 Amp socket. (The 10 Amp Plug will fit into the 16 Amp socket but it will be loose and make poor connection. An adapter, available in most supermarkets, is a better solution).
In particular, small 2-pin plugs used on small lamps and radios etc. will be very loose in the 16 Amp socket.

ItalySocket1.jpgDual-Sized Italian Sockets:ItalySocket2.jpg

Many 16 Amp Italian sockets these days have provision for inserting both 10A and 16A plugs. Here are examples:

ItalyPlugs2.jpgItalyPlugs1.jpgAdding Italian Plugs:

Because it is so difficult to find adapters to USA type plugs in Italy it is often easier to cut off the USA plug and attach a Italian or Euro type plug. Plugs are available in many supermarkets or "ferramenta" (Hardware) stores. You'll need a small screwdriver for the screws, and Wire Cutters/strippers. If you have a multi-outlet strip with Universal sockets like the one shown below, changing the plug to an Italian type may be very useful. Here are photos of the insides of typical 10A and 16A plugs, and detail of the screw-type wire connections, which are much easier to get right than most USA plugs. OH: The Green or Green-Striped wire goes to the center connection, other two to the other pins, either way.
DISCLAIMER: You are responsible for knowing how to do this safely, or finding an qualified person.

AND, there are many small appliances, especially the "wall wart" type power supplies for various chargers, that have the "USA Standard" "Type A" plugs that look like this:
external image 180px-A_plug.jpg

SO: How can we plug the "USA Type" plugs in??? You will need a physical Adapter. There are individual units that plug into a single socket, like the one on the left of this photo here: (The adapter on the right is for "Great Britain" type plugs (see below)..) NOTE: These are VERY hard to get in Italy (perhaps they are "illegal"?? )and you should try to get them before you come here!

OutletStrip1-600.jpgThere are also multiple outlet strips that can take almost any plug, like this: (Try to bring these from USA etc.) Many of us have had to cut off the USA plug and attach an Italian one, however.

GB-Plug1-200.jpgAND there is one more plug variation we need to deal with: The huge 3-prong "Great Britain" plug that is often seen on high-power appliances such as tea pots, microwave ovens, etc. It looks like this: It can be plugged into the multiple outlets strips and adapters.

OK, almost there! Being able to PHYSICALLY plug something in does not mean the VOLTAGE is right!

The local Italian system is 220 volts 50 cycles. Most all devices you get in Italy are 220V.

Incandescent light holders are mostly Edison screw base (i.e. same as USA). Local 220V bulbs fit these sockets, so typical 'simple' lamps (without dimmers or touch-switches) will work here with a new bulb.


North American appliances (120 volts) will need converters (transformers) to accommodate 220 volts. They are available at larger hardware stores. (Small capacity (100 watt) transformers are (sometimes) available, and are OK for small 120V units like camera/phone/Laptop chargers, radios, etc. )

However, many recent appliances, chargers etc. are made to be used worldwide, and are labeled "100 - 240Volts" or the like. These can be simply plugged in to any 120 or 220 volt systems and work fine. (Read the fine print on them).. Computers often have a small switch on the back, on their power supply, that can be set for 120 or 220 volts: Get it right! Many newer monitors and printers are "worldwide" and work on any voltage. (Again, the fine print..)

Note: should a 120V only device be plugged into a 220V outlet, the penalty maybe that only the AC adapter
gets ruined (if it has this as a separate plug-in unit) . The device itself may be ok. For example, many battery chargers and lower power electronic devices like routers take AC as input and convert to low voltage DC output. So when plugged into 220V, the adapter keeps supplying DC to the device at the requested output voltage but the adapter's coils get fried internally because they are designed for 120V input only. This simply means you need to buy an appropriate replacement AC adapter to get the device to work again.

Just in case you haven't had enough, click here For MORE information on power and plugs, WorldWide: (A WikiPedia entry)

Frequent travelers from 120 volt countries should consider investing in dual-voltage appliances for curling irons, curlers, traveling irons, hair dryers, etc.

And, you may have noticed that a few high-powered units like air conditioners are marked 380 Volts. What's that all about? The incoming building power is "3-phase" "Wye Connected" and 380 Volts is, of course, 220V times the Square Root of Three. If you hang around with Engineers you will have to endure some of us talking like this :-)