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La Stufa

Posted on Jan 18, 2010 | 9 comments

La stufa, AKA heater, is something that exemplifies one of the many cultural differences I encounter here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we don’t have all forms of electric heaters in the US and maybe it’s just my mother’s voice screaming about fire hazards in the back of my head, but I feel as though they’re a lot more ubiquitous here. Maybe that’s because more places than you would think have no central heating at all. I certainly looked at a few apartments that had “no need” for a radiator, so had an electric heater and I’ve even had friend live in such apartments. And yes, while it’s true that for a good part of the year you don’t need heat, I can tell you that from November to March, it’s a necessity. But more than anything, it makes me realize how “safety” obsessed we are in America. Not that it’s a bad thing – sometimes I think you could use a bit more safety here – but it also makes me realize that you can be a bit more carefree about things as well. My old roommate used to have a small gas heater he’d keep in his room. I didn’t really think much of it until one day it popped into my head that if anything went wrong, his little gas heater would explode our house. Did I say anything? Definitely not….he would have taken one look at me and said I was crazy.

Another difference, fire alarms. Again, I never gave it much thought, but I’m pretty certain my old apartment never had a fire alarm, and the current one does not. My mom will surely be in full panic now, but when I quizzed my Roman colleague on the matter, she thought it was ridiculous because the buildings are mostly stone anyway. I don’t really know if that’s a legit answer, but the fact that something as basic as a smoke detector is not mandatory in a house would be insane in the US. Mom, don’t send me a fire alarm now….

On another, separate note, I have to make an apology to all of you who take the time to read my blog. You see, for the past two months or so, my head just really hasn’t been in it the way it used to. With the move, being home, planning shows, I lost site of, and time for, doing the blog in the way I should. I’m sure you can understand after over a year of posting a photo and writing something almost every day, you can get tired. However, I promise you I am back, as this is the creative outlet that has allowed all other things and I never want that to change!

9 Comments

  1. I can do without all the "safety". Back in the states we had a smoke detector right next to the kitchen that we set off just about anytime we used the oven.

  2. Jessica,
    I love how you point out snippets of Italy that to us locals are a given. Stufe, gas heaters and such are dangerous, yes. But they are so thickly woven in our every day life and in the social tissue, to have become innocuous and almost invisible to us.
    Fire alarms!! Never thought of that. And how about smoke detectors, imagine what life would be like here if we had those installed in our homes? Comedy.

    Ciao and… a presto! πŸ˜‰
    Eleonora

  3. Well it's anyway interesting to read ya.
    About fire alarm necessity I would say that it's a priority even if the building is done mostly by stone. Buildings burn in Rome as in Stockholm or Kuala Lumpur. So… the fact we have, usually, no fire alarms in our buildings in Italy is not really a good thing.
    It's different about gas heater. I find them definetly dangerous and I wouldn't use it into my house for nothing!
    About the "stufa". Well in my apartment I use it sometimes in the cold season despite in Sicily this "cold season" called winter is something like a mirage. πŸ™‚

  4. Jessica, love your post. Being from Latin America and living in the US now I completely understand what you are talking about. There are things here that I would have never thought would be needed back in Caracas. But I guess that is what is all about. How you truly learned to understand our "cultures" where ever we are. By the way I love the image!

  5. Sara – Me too! In my house the alarm always went off when cooking and we had to fan the smoke away. However, better than letting the house burn down πŸ˜‰

    Eleonora and Simone – Ok, I'm glad you think it's strange too! I still never understand what it seems like people are overcautious about some things (like going out of the house with your hair wet), yet totally don't care about things that could be quite dangerous!

    Luis – Really interesting, I had no idea you were a transplant as well! I think everyone should live outside their own country for even just a little while so they can really get a perspective on their own culture.

  6. Safety is an option here, it seems! Seat belts? Who needs 'em? Bike helmets? For sissies! And the list goes on… We need to find a middle ground between Italian and US safety standard perhaps.

  7. I've thought about smoke detectors too. I don't have any in my apartment.

    And I don't have central heating either. My heaters are these fancy Delonghi appliances that my landlord bought. They are fantastic but it does crack me up that I assumed there was central heating only to move in and see that there wasn't.

  8. This past November, when I was visiting my "family" in Viterbo, they were so excited the day their stufa was installed. It was a huge deal and we had great fun as the guys installed it. The family is a riot and I blog about them and my experiences in Italy at: http://www.mark-leslie.net. Isn't it great to share our Italian experiences with others? Bellissima!
    -Mark

  9. Saretta – I'm more disturbed seeing babies in cars without baby seats! Yeah, bike helmets….what's a bike helmet? Never seen one here.

    NYC – Oh no! Yes, definitely on the list of questions to ask when getting a place. A few of the apartments I just looked at didn't "need" central heating. Ha!

    Mark – Haha only here could a stufa installation be a big event! I'll be sure to check out your blog, thanks.

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