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Whoops, I did it Again in Italy, the Land of Self-Induced Blackouts

Oops, I did it again! Last night I innocently switched on the kettle to make myself a cup of coffee in our apartment in Milan, Italy.  Total blackness ensued as the power went out.

Here are some tips to help you avoid experiencing similar problems and minimize irate reactions from partners.

Before turning on the kettle – the cause of the latest blackout incident, I’d carelessly forgotten to make a mental note of how many major electrical appliances were working away.  I could hear the dishwasher doing its thing, but I was unaware that other-half had secretly activated the washing machine.

The error of my thoughts caused me to get it in the neck for bringing an episode of NCIS to an abrupt end at a crucial moment!

This is by no means the first time we’ve had the lights go out in our Milan apartment. Indeed, self-induced power blackouts are remarkably regular occurrence in Italy. Power cut syndrome has afflicted every house I’ve lived in here.

One, Two, Three, Pop!

In our Italian household, switching on three major power-draining electrical appliances leads to instant blackouts.

Before making a cup of tea, you have to think carefully about what’s on to avoid unnecessary interruptions to films, or work.

Here are some of the blackout inducing combinations:

  • washing machine plus dishwasher plus kettle = blackout
  • oven plus washing machine plus dishwasher = blackout
  • oven plus water heater plus kettle = blackout
  • water heater plus dishwasher plus vacuum cleaner = blackout

Using a hairdryer can cause the lights to go out, as can our potent multi-chef food processor thingy, or the polenta stirring machine.

More often than not, the rule is two plus one equals power cut.

Or, One Plus One Equals Blackout

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I’ve heard that in some households in Italy, the rule is one plus one leads to a blackout.

Yes, electrical circuitry in Italy’s houses, which are apartments more often than not, tends to be a mite fragile.

Actually, it may not be a case of fragility, as Italian electrical meters ‘watch’ how much current is being drained and if the limit is exceeded – blackout!  It is possible to request a higher limit – but it will cost money – and be sure to have the wiring tested before beefing up the electrical system, or else you may need the assistance of your local fire department.

An automatic cut-out prevents cables frying themselves when circuits are overloaded – which, as you might expect, could cause a fire. Blackouts are preferable to fires, I am sure you will agree.

Be Prepared for Blackouts!

Generally, these blackouts are minor irritations – although the first time it occurs, you may have some difficulty finding the circuit breaker – which is not always easy to locate in apartments in Italy. You may also have a little fun trying to understand which little levers need to be pushed to make the lights come back on. Various combinations are possible.

I keep a torch in the circuit breaker cupboard for those little ‘blackout’ moments. What can be much more annoying, and it has happened to yours truly, is when the power takes out your desktop computer before you managed to save that long document you were working on. Hair-pulling moments are likely to follow! A UPS system can help matters and save you from a great deal of frustration.

Laptop computers are, more or less, immune to power cuts, provided their batteries are charged and are in good condition.

Some Save Your Sanity Tips

If you are staying in Italy, renting an apartment or villa, the first thing you should do is find out where the circuit breaker hides. Keep a torch in an easy to find location too.

Remember this little rule too: One, two, three, pop!

Time for a cup of coffee. Pop! Oops, I did it again!

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