What One Woman Learned When She Moved to Tuscany

In our November 2012 issue of Dream of Italy, Jennifer Criswell wrote about the surprising things she learned about Italian culture and everyday life when the thirtysomething moved from New York City to Montepulciano. In an excerpt of her article What I Learned When I Moved to Tuscany, the author of the new book At Least You’re in Tuscany, talks about “the Italian dryer mystery”:

I have been living in Tuscany for four years and have now grown used to some of the things that often raised my eyebrow in the beginning or left me befuddled. When I first arrived I was convinced that I’d somehow moved back in time as well as to a new country.

Lighting my stove requires a match and the gas that powers it is in a tank nestled below. Laundry is hung outside to dry in summer and winter, and I have discovered that from September until April the sun won’t hit my windows and therefore the clothes on the line will still be damp when I bring them back in. Why no dryers?

During my seasonal work at a local winery, I frequently field this question from unsuspecting tourists who are surprised to learn that their villa hasn’t provided a dryer. Electricity is expensive here. It’s as simple as that. There are some people who have dryers and do use them occasionally, but the amount of energy they consume makes it a costly enterprise.

It’s the same issue with the heat. If you visit Tuscany in the winter months, you will often be asked to pay a surcharge for the heating. This is done to discourage guests from turning the heat on in the morning and then heading out for the day.

To make my heating oil last throughout the winter, I have gotten on the schedule that one of my Italian friends suggested. She turns her heat on an hour in the morning to take the chill off and a couple hours in the evening after dinner. It definitely doesn’t keep you toasty warm, but most people will also have a fireplace or stove to supplement their heat.

And if you are like me and don’t have one of these magic fire boxes, a hot water bottle helps unfreeze toes…back in time, remember?