When you travel to Italy, you’ll be faced with the fact that none of your electronic devices will plug directly into an Italian wall socket. This problem is easily solved with an inexpensive plug adapter.
But first, let’s consider Italy’s choice of power. The juice that flows from an Italian power socket is nominally 220 volts at 50 Hz (cycles per second). This is twice the voltage that American plugs supply, at ten fewer cycles every second. For modern technology that sips current, this is usually no problem. Most modern digital cameras, laptops, tablets, phones and other devices are happy to plug into a 220 volt socket.
Hey, this is an expensive device! How do I tell for sure!
Easy. Look at your power brick. Somewhere on it, usually in small type, the voltage range that the device can tolerate is revealed. Consider the photo above. Here you can clearly read that the device has been designed to tolerate 100-240 volts at 1 amp and 50-60 Hz. Right in the ballpark. Attach your plug adapter and jam it into that wall socket, which, if you are in a modern building, might look like the white photo below:
The above photo shows a type L socket. It has three prongs, the center one being for the ground connection. An Italian type C socket has only two prongs. You can use either type C or type L plugs in a type L socket. If you need a ground connection because your American plug has a ground connection, you probably need a type L plug.
Why am I going into so much detail on this? Well, there are pitfalls. You see, plugs exists with fatter prongs. These are sold to tourists as Italian plugs. In fact, they can fit in some Italian sockets, usually located in a kitchen. They are for very high powered appliances, you see. Hotels do not offer these plugs, so shy away from anything marked Schuko or type E/F. Below is a photo of the two plugs side by side on my kitchen table:
The one on the left is useless in most hotels. Not a lot of visible difference, is there? In any case, here are the plugs I recommend.
- Ceptics 2 USB Italy Travel Adapter 4 in 1 Power Plug (Type L) – Universal Socket . You get 2 USB ports and two sockets for your devices. Hotels aren’t known for having many unused outlets, so this might come in handy if you have several devices that need frequent charging.
- SF Cable, 3 Prong Plug Adapter, USA NEMA 5-15R Receptacle to Italy CEI 23-16. If you need a ground connection, I like this plug because it fits all the specifications.
- Plug Adapter for Italy – Type B Plug. This is your cheap, utilitarian plug for devices that don’t need a grounding connection (although you can mate an American plug with it, the grounding lug will clear the plug (and not get connected, for those of you who like to live dangerously ungrounded). I have several of these in my bag right now.
These days you can buy these things in Italy, even at a larger supermarket. But who wants to waste vacation time doing that?
When do I need a voltage converter?
If what you’re plugging in has enormous power requirements or a motor, like an American hair dryer or some medical equipment, you’ll need to convert the voltage back down to 110. If it relies on the number of cycles (Hz) for timing, it will also fail connected to the Italian system. Most hotels these days supply native powered hair dryers, so you probably don’t want to mess with them. You can usually buy a hair dryer in Italy for about the cost of a reliable voltage converter anyway.
If you do need a voltage converter for some reason, this Voltage Converter Travel Adapter converts foreign electricity from 220-240V to 110-120V.