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Modern Italian plugs and sockets

Italian plugs and sockets are quite different from the ones found in the rest of Continental Europe. Italy has traditionally used the "type L" standard, consisting of two sizes of plug (10 and 16A) with a central earth pin.

While these are still available, very few appliances still come with them nowadays, mostly seeing use on power strips and extension cords; instead, Schuko plugs as seen in most other European countries have become common. However, the vast majority of household sockets aren't compatible with them, leading many to use adaptors.

Standard Italian 16A and 10A sockets

As with the plugs, sockets are available in 16 and 10A versions. The 16A ones are the most common, and these days are all "Bipasso", that is, they accept either size of plug. This wasn't the case originally, as the two plugs were meant for different tariffs. These older sockets are quite uncommon nowadays, but may still be found in older installations.

It should be noted that Italian sockets are all modular - that is, they're made of different modules which can be connected together to form many different types of layouts. This particular one is part of the BTcino Matix series.

Italian "Schuko" power sockets

Since Schuko plugs have become so common, sockets compatible with both standards have gained in popularity, and are often present in newer installations. The type generally seen is compatible both with 10 and 16A type L plugs as well as Schuko ones; however, there is also a less common version which is essentially the same as a standard Schuko one but with an earth hole for 10A plugs.

Compared to standard Schuko sockets, these have a wider opening, to enable the use of type L 10 and 16A plugs. They also often have a smaller recess, though it is still deep enough to provide adequate protection against touching the live pins.

Adoption of these sockets has been quite slow until recently, and even in newer houses standard 10/16A ones are often the ones used for most things - this is due to their higher cost, and them taking up twice the module space, which means that only one can be fitted in a standard 503 wall box.

Standard 10A and 16A plugs

These are the types of plugs traditionally used in Italy. As previously mentioned, there are both 10 and 16A ones, which have different pin sizes and spacing, as they were originally meant for different voltages and tariffs.

Nowadays, there are few appliances that still use these plugs, generally laptops and some desktop computers. In practice, they're mainly found on things like power strips, especially in the case of the 16A one. While appliances don't use them anymore, type L plugs are still the default style used for rewireable plugs, which makes sense as they're compatible with most sockets.

For the same reason, these are also the types of plugs most power strips use, though these days it's common for them to use the Schuko-compatible sockets, for compatibility with most types of appliances.

BTicino 10A plug

This is one of the many styles of rewireable plugs available, in this case made by BTIcino. The main feature of this one is that its pins can change orientation, to be either on the front or on the side. Having the pins set up from the side makes this plug take up very little space, which can be useful for sockets placed behind furniture.

The main problem with this plug is that neither of the two orientations are compatible with a Schuko-style socket. Given that these are becoming more and more common, it seems like continuing to sell these styles of plugs is a bad idea, even if they have quite a clever design.

Sockets for round boxes

While very rarely installed nowadays, round wall boxes of the style used in the rest of Europe, as well as electrical accessories compatible with them, are still available for purchase today. Generally though, the main reason for buying a socket or light switch compatible with the round box standard is to replace an existing one in an older house.

Replacing old sockets is quite a good idea, not just due to wear but also because older sockets may not work well with modern plugs that don't use split pins. Additionally, older 16A sockets weren't of the "Bipasso" type and thus required an adaptor to connect 10A plugs.

Schuko adaptors

As previously mentioned, it's quite common for appliances to use Schuko plugs even though most sockets aren't compatible with them. As such, adaptors like these, which convert from one type to the other, are extremely common. Another solution is to use a power strip with sockets that accept both types of standard, which are very easily found and the most common type sold nowadays.

Note that, by law, these have to be rated at 1500W maximum. However, they are regularly used for much higher loads, such as hairdryers and clothes washers.

While the idea of using adaptors might seem dangerous (and, to be fair, it does introduce an extra point of failure), keep in mind that these are nothing like the travel adaptors used on holidays.

Adaptors that go the other way around, that is, enabling the use of Italian plugs on Schuko sockets, are also available though understandably not very popular. They can be useful however for plugs that aren't compatible with the recessed Schuko sockets, or for anyone going on holiday.

Both styles are available either as simple adaptors or as multiway ones, which enable plugging in multiple appliances.

Multi-way adaptor with switch

This is a three-way adaptor, with two 10/16A sockets and a Schuko socket (also compatible with 10A plugs). While adaptors of that style are quite common, this one is quite interesting, as it has a built-in power switch.

Adaptors with switches could be useful to power down certain devices without having to disconnect the plug, such as with holiday lights.

Power strip with Bipasso outlets

This is a classic Italian power strips, with four Bipasso power sockets. Power strips of this style have nowadays become less common, in favour of ones with Italian-style Schuko sockets, which don't require the use of adaptors.

Despite this, these power strips can still be useful, as they take up a lot less space than ones compatible with Schuko sockets. This can be a big advantage in places where little space available, especially if mainly using Europlugs or 10A Italian plugs.