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Old Italian plugs

This page documents vintage rewireable plugs and connector sockets from Italy, used with appliances and extension cords, as well as old types of adaptors to convert between different kinds of plugs.

These items have a considerable lack of safety features compared to modern ones: most of the ones here lack sleeved pins and the sockets, unless specificed, don't have any sort of shutters.

Note: a different page is present to showcase standard wall-mounted power sockets.

Standard rewireable plugs and sockets

Round bakelite plug

Rating: unknown, possibly 6A 250V

This plug was originally connected to a 1950s tube radio, and presumably was the one that originally came with it. Its shape is entirely different from modern Italian plugs, and more akin to the old unearthed plugs used in the rest of Europe.

The body is made out of two pieces of white bakelite. Unusually, the cord entry is on the site.

Bakelite plug

Rating: 6A 250V

This plug, likely also made in the 50s, is much smaller and shaped more similarly to ones made nowadays. It's made out of two identical pieces of brown bakelite, and is then held closed with a screw and a nut. This was likely a cost saving measure, to avoid having to make two moulds instead of one.

Plugs from MAPL

Rating: 10A 250V and 15A 380V

These are two plugs made by the company MAPL. They're made in a similar way, with a flexible rubber body and a hard plastic (or ceramic, for the larger plug) base to hold the pins and screw connections. Notably, on both of them a hole is present for a possible earth pin, which isn't there in either of the plugs.

To wire them up, the pins are bent sideways to force the base piece out of the rubber body. This can be tricky to do, though that's good since it means it'd be difficult for the plug to come apart while in use, and thus revealing live connections.

Interestingly, while the smaller plug has the usual rating of 10A 250V, the larger one is rated for 380V - this is quite odd as that style of socket was generally always used for 220V (or, rarely, similar voltages such as 260V). This rating indicates the possibility of using this with two phases of a 220/380V transformer, a quite unusual setup.

Rewireable plugs and sockets by BTicino

Rating: 15A and 10A 250V

This is a rewireable plug and two sockets made by BTicino. The plug is a non-earthed "large" one, without any sleeving (later versions were made that did use sleeved pins.) Wiring it up is, unusually, done by untwisting the two pins and removing the front plastic piece.

The two plugs, on the other hand, are also quite dangerous since they lack shutters - this also makes it possible to connect the earth pin of an appliance to one of the live conductors. The contacts on them are also quite close to the surface, which means that, when used with an unsleeved plug, it's possible to leave a considerable amount of metal exposed and easy to touch.

Wiring them is as unusual as with the plug: you have to insert a screwdriver in the holes and remove the contacts themselves (which have a thread at the end). The wires are connected by forming a circular shape with them and placing them behind the screw thread of the contacts.

Round 16A plug

Rating: 16A 250V

This round plug, made by OVA, was found at the end of an old extension cord. It's made of a somewhat flexible rubbery material and has quite a large shape, being completely round at the front (common on three-phase plugs of the time but not as much on single-phase ones), which makes it take up more space compared to standard plug designs.

The unusual thing about it is that it has a longer earth pin; this is a fairly common feature on other standards of plug, to ensure that the earth is always connected first, but it's not at all a thing on Italian plugs. It's more common to have the socket use a slightly raised earth contact for essentially the same purpose.

Round 16A socket

Rating: 15A 380V

This is a "big" type-L socket, with dimensions similar to the round plug previously mentioned. It has a small indentation on the outside, presumably to help reduce the risk of accidental contacts; while this wouldn't help completely, especially with smaller plugs, it's better than nothing.

The rating of 380V is interesting - generally at the time these sockets would have been used at 220V, which could have either come from two phases of a 127/220V transformer, or a phase and neutral from a 220/380V transformer, but the 380V rating implies that this could have been used with two phases from the a 220/380V transformer, something I'm not sure was ever all that popular (I presume a three phase plug would have been more suitable for this purpose instead).

Dual-use plug (fits in either type of socket)

Rating: 10/15A 250V

This very unusual plug has been designed specifically to fit in both 10A and (non-Bipasso) 16A power sockets. Normally it's in the 16A position, however, when the two levers on the sides are pushed inwards the pins move closer together to fit 10A sockets.

The shape of the pins is quite unusual, too, resembling "banana plugs" used in electronics projects. This was possibly chosen so that the plug pins would both be thin enough to fit in 10A socket contacts while also making a good connection for 16A ones.

Once opened up, the plug is identical to standard ones, albeit with two springs which move the pins back into the 16A position when the two side levers aren't pushed in.

Dual-use plugs like this one did not catch on and were very uncommon; the problem of the dual types of plugs was instead moved to the socket end, with Bipasso outlets being made to fit both styles of plug in use in Italy.

Industrial/heavy duty plugs and sockets

These plugs were the ones present in industrial/heavy duty applications before the advent of the IEC 60309 ones in use nowadays in most of the 230V world.

15A three-pin and four-pin plugs

Rating: 15A 380V

Although in Italy three-phase power isn't commonly found in the home, it's used on distribution lines and most businesses and factories do have all three phases available. So, it makes sense that special plugs would be made to connect three-phase equipment, and these are the ones used before the modern IEC ones became commonplace.

The first plug, and its matching socket, only has three pins, for the three phases, while the second one also has a fourth pin in the centre for the earth connection. Note that, while the first socket has a hole in the middle, this is just for the screw holding it together. None of the plugs have a neutral connection - as such they could have only been used with balanced loads such as motors.

30A four-pin plug

Rating: 30A 380V

This is just a larger version of the plugs shown above, being rated for 30A instead of 15. Its design is identical to the other ones, just at a larger scale; additionally, the central earth pin is noticeably smaller than the ones for the phases.

This particular one has never been used - apart from its immaculate condition, this can be confirmed by the spot on the back used for the cord entry not being punched through. It's definitely an interesting way to install a plug.

30A single-phase plug

Rating: 30A 250V

Special high-current plugs were also available, such as this high-amperage single-phase one. It's made out of a hard plastic material, and has large pins for the line and neutral connections as well as the earth.

This model looks very similar to the modern French 20A version, though with a different orientation of the earth pin. It's unclear if there is any relation between the two types of plug.


Light socket to power socket adaptor

These devices were commonly used to connect appliances to lampholders, before power sockets became common in most rooms of a house - because of this in Italy they were commonly called rubacorrente (current stealer). Most of them, like this one, had two sockets as well as a pass-through for a lightbulb.

16A to 10A socket converter

Rating: unknown, possibly 10A 250V

This is one of the many styles of adaptors that existed back in the day to convert between the two types of Italian plugs. It's quite simple, and converts a (non-earthed) "large" style of socket to be used with 10A plugs.

Non-earthed multiway adaptor

Rating: unknown

Adaptors with this type of design were common, and very distinctive due to their shape. They feature three sockets, in this case 10A ones, with the plastic moulding shaped exactly around the circular holes of the sockets. This particular one doesn't feature an earth pin, but still accepts earthed plug - these were sold bacn when most houses didn't have an earth connection, so they'd have also been used to bypass the earthing on a device as well.

"16A" multiway adaptor

Rating: 10A 250V, but also only 1000W maximum

This old adaptor has three sockets on it, a "large" and two "small" ones. As typical with these old devices, the 16A socket doesn't support 10A plugs. Due to the age of the device, there aren't any shutters on the socket, but it's new enough to feature sleeved pins. There are also small indentations on each socket, presumably a protection useful if using plugs with unsleeved pins.

Magic to Bipasso adaptor

Rating: 10/16A 250V

If you bought into the BTicino Magic sockets you might have wanted to plug something in without having to rewire it - something not only very inconvenient but also impossible to do with power bricks, for example. Thankfully, adaptors like this one existed, which let you connect normal Italian plugs to a Magic socket; of course, this defeated most of the safety benefits of the Magic plugs completely, though this adaptor is at least new enough to be quite safe, as it features shutters, though earlier ones didn't have them.

The adaptor features a single Bipasso socket (which accepts 10 and 16A Italian plugs), and is compatible with both 10 and 16A Magic sockets, for convenience. This makes sense, as, while the most common Magic sockets were the 10A ones, 16A ones were sometimes used, and this adaptor would have worked with either of them.