Heating a House in Italy: Meet Our New Stufa

Lest anyone try to convince you that Calabria has a tropical climate, let me assure you–it’s gets *cold* here in the winter, especially the further you go up into the mountains (duh). And I know Cherrye is with me on this.

Seriously, I’ve seen people on message boards claim the temps never fall into the 40s. Please. We have *skiing* here for goodness’ sake!

The temps may not always be low like what I was getting used to in Pennsylvania, but there’s usually a good bit of humidity in the air and once that enters these old stone walls, tile floors, and *your bones*, well, you get the point, right?

Central heating here is rare, and indeed, quite expensive as electricity costs are outrageous. People turn to various solutions for heat: gas stoves, pellet stoves, old-fashioned fireplaces, and my favorite, the wood-burning stove.

This is our first winter in this house, which used to have an old fireplace that did precisely nothing for heating the place (P grew up in the house); it was one of the first things we gutted, in fact. So we’ve been making do with small electric space heaters only when we *absolutely* needed them. Still, I’m not looking forward to my next electric bill.

Even then, wearing several layers of clothes inside the house was normal, and in fact, necessary. I know this may seem strange to those of you who walk around in t-shirts in your house when it’s 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but trust me, that isn’t a common scene in Italy even *with* heat.

But then, just this past week, we joined the ranks of the “heated.” P had scouted out wood stoves while I was in America, and neither of us were thrilled with the selection or prices. So when I got back, I took to the Internet. We found something perfect, for a good price (including delivery), and it arrived within a week! I know!

P and his friend left the village in the morning to get the pipes and everything to go with it and had it installed within an hour.

Meet Sammy Stufa and her new best friend, Stella:

I seriously couldn’t love this thing more.

Not only does it heat up the entire top floor of the house, I can even melt my Nutella on top of it so it’s spreadable again! At some point, we’ll put ducts through the house to *really* circulate heat through the place, but as they say in Italy, pian piano….”

(Hey, don’t forget World Nutella Day is coming up!)

Buon weekend! Stay warm!

35 Beans of Wisdom to “Heating a House in Italy: Meet Our New Stufa”
  1. 01.30.2010

    Oh I feel for you..must of been horrendous just with little electric heaters…Cannot believe you lived with NO heating..I love this fire..:-)

    Yeah, shower-time is the toughest; we still use the little heater in the bathroom for that….

    .-= anne´s last blog ..My New Header……. =-.

  2. 01.30.2010

    We tend to use ours to boil the kettle as well! I know from experience how true to life your post is brrh!

    I simmered some soup yesterday πŸ™‚

    .-= LindyLouMac´s last blog ..Hibernating =-.

  3. 01.30.2010

    That looks great!!! I wish we had room for one.

    We’re very lucky to have room in this place, indeed; thank goodness P’s parents had seven kids and needed the space!

    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Post by Email Wrapup =-.

  4. 01.30.2010

    Oh Stella, I understand your joy πŸ™‚

    She definitely gets colder than Luna does, so she’s especially happy πŸ™‚

    .-= robyn´s last blog ..Bantam Rooster =-.

  5. Kerri MacKenzie

    I’m from Michigan, but never understood the feeling of cold to the bones until I moved to Calabria. The humidity penetrates you! I don’t like the feeling from the wall-mounted room heater at all, but have found a gas tank fueled “stufa” that I like quite a bit. I admit that yours is more charming! I look forward to closing off our little area from the rest of the house so that we can warm it all up in a more circulated way. Yes, pian piano!

    Yes the smaller you can confine that space, the better off you are; we’re working on that too πŸ˜‰

  6. Lesley

    That looks really lovely and cosy 8-))
    Do you have a website link for the place you got it from?

    The place I got it from doesn’t have a website; I found this on eBay…this is their store there though:

    Acqua Verde, s.r.l.

    Highly recommended; the shipping was beyond reasonable, and everything arrived really quickly!

  7. 01.30.2010

    OMG its beautiful! I’m soooo jealous as I lie here still huddled up under the covers this morning while it is 9ΒΊ F outside.
    Enjoy it. I know this will be your favorite toy….maybe even more so than the iPod or your Mac laptop – at least for the winter!

    I think you’re right. And that is saying *a lot* πŸ™‚

    .-= anna l’americana´s last blog ..In Memoriam…. =-.

  8. I can also relate to the ‘cold in the bones’ feeling. Although Belgium doesn’t get the snow that we got in Canada, the constant damp and lack of sun in winter makes you chilled right through.

    It’s funny you should mention people’s impression that Italy is always warm. My husband was firmly in that camp until he was storm stayed in Milan for three days with nothing but the business suit he was wearing. πŸ™‚

    Enjoy your new wood-stove!

    Oh wow, that sounds like a *very* cold trip to Milano! It really is just a different cold…wouldn’t have believed it till I felt it? Brrrr….
    .-= Alison Cornford-Matheson´s last blog ..Is Kindle the Choice for Expats and Environmentalists? =-.

  9. Lovely! I’d be sitting right there next to Stella if I visited. πŸ™‚ I’m with you on the cold, humid winters here and I’m quite a bit north of you and Cherrye! Our old building has thick stone exterior walls and no one lives year round in the apartment below. We keep our wine cold by leaving it on the tile floors! We’ve been rethinking our heating options and a stove like that would be lovely! Enjoy your warm(er) winter!

    Yes amazing how you don’t really have to refrigerate drinks, isn’t it? πŸ˜‰

    .-= Laura from Ciao Amalfi´s last blog ..Winter afternoons in Ravello =-.

  10. 01.30.2010

    Cold, in Southern Italy? I know what you mean. When we lived in Kenya, right on the equator in East AFrica, everybody thought we’d be sweltering all the time. Not so! We had a fire place and burned wood at night. It was cold at night, and cool in the early morning. Of course this was because we lived in the Highlands, and it was high! The days were gorgeous, and I loved my fire at night!

    Enjoy your lovely little wood stove! In the US there are all kinds of specs to have one of these installed — how far from the wall, how thick the pipes, a special fireproof base underneath, etc. etc.

    I’m sure they have restrictions here too…P’s friend installs these professionally, so I’m *assuming* he knows about them? Ahem….

  11. richard curtis


    Must be nice…while in Napoli with 3 kids and a dog all I ever saw was a tiny little ol “bombola” with a burner on the other end…..the kids always got the heat……

    Coverlets from factory up north made it bearable…..yes Michelle you do live the good life…

    Love and Llight,


    Don’t I know it! Although I do have to fight with the dogs for the good seats….

  12. 01.30.2010

    Oh yes it does get cold. I have great memories of a friend’s husband’s careful filling of adorable water bottles for everyone’s bed. He started that just after dinner. We also used to have a little indoor brass thingy…like they have in North Africa, my French, Italian, Arabic words are failing me here…but we would eat tangerines & toss the skin into the fire to make it smell great. It’s snowing here in DC…more than we thought it would be. ciao. (I’m making Louise’s banana cake…came over to get the recipe again…thanks so very much to your archives:)


    Enjoy! I use those little hot water bottles for our beds too! They’re really quite impressive; oh and the brass thing…you mean the braciere? We take out our coals and put them in for our toesies πŸ™‚

    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Week’s End – Bird in Jerusalem =-.

  13. Gil

    That’s one sharp little stove! Glad you finally got some heat.

    Thanks Gil! The girls are loving it πŸ™‚

  14. awedree

    Ooooo…..your stove looks very cozy and inviting. Hope you’re having a warm and delightful weekend. BTW I like that expression “pian piano”… a good reminder for me when I get impatient πŸ™‚

    It’s an excellent expression indeed; living in Italy, you don’t have a choice but to live by it, but I do think that’s for the better πŸ™‚

  15. 01.31.2010

    Goats are warm as well, and although litter training them might be time-consuming, they don’t eat as much feed as a stufa eats wood!

    Believe me, if goats were a choice for heating, I’d vote goat every time; as it is, I think I’m pushing P’s Italian-ness by having two dogs in the house….

  16. 01.31.2010

    Can I just say I love the wood burning stove and central heating is not found here either, well I have never seen it anyway. Maybe the the posh have it but I wouldn’t know. It’s more common to heat/cool with individual reverse cycle air ~ and that’s in newer places. They have evap which is ducted but that’s just to help cool and doesn’t work when it gets a little humid or it rises above 33 or so. I know it makes more sense to heat/cool the room you are in but it makes for either a really cold bed to climb into or in the case of summer, hot rooms you don’t even want to go into. It’s hard to be contained to one room I find. I refuse to live in Perth with no air conditioning for summer. That is where I draw the line, period! I don’t know how people do it here, but again I’m not interested because it isn’t even an option for me. It is way too stinkin’ hot here in summer.
    I stayed in a holiday chalet down south in the dead of winter and it had the most marvelous wood burning stove. Toasted the whole place up nice and warm.
    Will be nice when you get the ducting in. Stay warm. x

    Thanks…and you stay cool! It can get brutal here in the summer as well, but I think my body is adjusting…I don’t seem to mind it as much any more (she says in January….) πŸ˜‰

    .-= collette´s last blog ..valentine crafts =-.

  17. 01.31.2010

    Right, Italy is warm. Ha! When I first came we were staying in an “interim” place with no heat and a fireplace that made lots of smoke but was not very efficient at heating. Since I came in February, needless to say, I froze my **** off! I used to look forward to mealtimes because I would huddle near the cooktop while I was preparing our meal.

    Mary, I wonder if it’s all just a conspiracy to get women to stay in the kitchen! I *love* washing dishes in the winter just so I can warm my hands…hate it otherwise πŸ˜‰

    .-= Mary´s last blog ..Dear Diary… =-.

  18. 01.31.2010

    Yay! for heat!

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Shan!

  19. 01.31.2010

    I’m with Stella and I would agree with your pushing it with the 2 dogs in the house. They love ’em and they love’em outdoors.

    And they really don’t know all the cuddles they’re missing….

  20. 01.31.2010

    This looks like a wonderful stove, I have heard that used well they are the best heating source and if the wood is truly sustainably sourced they’re the best environmental option too.

    I love the photo and hey, World Nutella Day must be worth celebrating!

    That’s what I’ve heard too, about them being both economical and ecological…I sure hope so because this is definitely our best option here economically….

    .-= Crafty Green poet´s last blog ..High Tide at North Berwick =-.

  21. 01.31.2010

    Cute little stove. I love its dual purpose of heating up nutella!

    Thanks! Me too πŸ™‚

    .-= The Food Hunter´s last blog ..Silly Conversations That Come Up When You Decide to Cook a Goat…. =-.

  22. 01.31.2010


    If nobody has yet let you in on the wet papertowel and ash trick for keeping the glass clean I have a step by step instruction here


    We have two, one that runs the central heating and one for me to hog in the living room, after months of seemngly doing nothing but lug wood you have runied my dream of running off to the South and being warm all the time.

    Am sulking.

    Sorry to burst that bubble, Sarah…and since someone commented on the cold in Kenya, it looks like you’ll have to go even further south…thanks for the ash tip! My MIL mentioned that, but I had forgotten…you know…selective hearing πŸ˜‰

    .-= Sarah in Italy´s last blog ..Pheonix from the flames =-.

  23. 01.31.2010

    Yes! Thank you Michele for the link to your post on the braciere…you even put in there about clementine peel. That’s exactly it. Nicely done post, BTW.

    Glad you enjoyed…I love that post too πŸ™‚

    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Week’s End – Bird in Jerusalem =-.

  24. 02.01.2010

    I feel for you. It’s amazing what necessities I take for granted! I love my furnance and I love heat! And once in a while put wood in the the fireplace. hmmm…did you say nutella, going for some now!

    Mangia mangia!!

    .-= lucy´s last blog .. =-.

  25. 02.01.2010

    Yay! Warm. In Liguria it gets cold in winter too – cold and damp, the kind of damp that creeps right inside you and clenches you up. Bah! We have a small terra cotta wood stove, same period as house – not as pretty as your beauty, but effective. Complimenti!

    Oh I love terra cotta anything…I bet yours is pretty too πŸ™‚

    .-= Fern Driscoll´s last blog ..Desert Camo =-.

  26. Ciaocristina

    Hi Michelle
    che bella stufa-and it doubles as a nutella warmer! i’ll have to come up with an option for heating my 42 sq m. house in Orsara di Puglia. Right now i could only use it from about May to Sept. i only have a bombola for the little kitchen range, and didn’t want to get metano piped in because of the cost and the pain of having another utility bill to pay from Canada. I’ll probably just get one of those space heaters for now-and hoard away lots of blankets! Ciao, Cristina

    And hot water bottles! They’re *wonderful* and you can’t beat the price πŸ˜‰

  27. Katja | Driving Like a Maniac

    Oh, how gorgeous. We had one of those in our house when I was a child and they heat everything up fantastically. I love them. Sadly we only have wall-mounted radiators here in our flat in Salento. They’re pretty good, but they’re not half as pretty to look at!

    The other things that are AMAZING are AGAs, but I don’t know if you’d get those here in Italy. They’re quite an English thing, I think. Gosh, what I wouldn’t give to be snuggled up against an AGA right now. I’m fed up of the damp!

    I hadn’t heard of an AGA…they look fabulous!

    .-= Katja | Driving Like a Maniac´s last blog ..Oh, the shame! =-.

  28. 02.01.2010

    “The other things that are AMAZING are AGAs”

    I think there is a company that imports them, but you then have to triple the already eye watering price.

    There are pleanty of Italian wood burning range styles to chose from, starting at about 400 euros. (try Any big Brico for the cheaper models)

    places like here for the pricey stuff that will run your centrral heating.


    Thanks Sarah! You’re like the Italian heating queen πŸ˜€
    .-= Sarah in Italy´s last blog ..Pheonix from the flames =-.

  29. I was shocked by the cold interiors when living one year in Rome, so I know EXACTLY what you mean. I would go outside, strangely, in winter to warm up on a sunny day-in a black leather jacket. I only needed wool INSIDE the buildings. My study space was in a 15th century building with thick walls that were great at keeping temperatures cool in summer but horrible in winter.

    As for you new heater, it is similar to what we use in the mountain house in northern Veneto. Since I never had a fireplace when growing up in America, it is a real treat to be able to feel the heat and watch the flames this way.

    You’ll just have to be careful about cleaning the pipes regularly to avoid a fire hazard. Some of the stories I hear up in the moutains are scary, although they build with more wood that you probably have down south.

    *Warm wishes* from Padua

    Yes, sunny days in the winter *definitely* often mean going outside to warm up! Strange!
    .-= Irene from American in Padua´s last blog ..McDonald’s Goes Italian 100% =-.

  30. 02.01.2010

    YES! When I was in Sicily in early November last year it was freezing near Mt. Etna. Around 5C at night and no heating inside, I wore all my layers of clothes. It was terrible, how did the people survive without heating?????

    I was soooo bone cold, I nearly cried. I’m super duper thrilled that you have furnace now. Bless the heater!

    And yes, no one believed me that it could be so cold in Sicily. Duh! We’re next to an insanely high volcano.

    PS – If you need help with spreading the love on nutella, send me a message. Have some expat groups and such to blast to πŸ™‚

    Have sent you a message…hope you weren’t *too* cold in Sicily that you don’t want to come back this way πŸ™‚

  31. Oh welcome to the warmth!

    I don’t know if I would have a blog if I didn’t have a wood burning stove. I am quite sure my favorite place in the world is sitting in front of my fire with my cat, kids, laptop while reading and writing. For me it’s a slice of heaven. Enjoy enjoy my friend.


    Thank you Julie! It’s *so* wonderful to work near the stove πŸ™‚

    .-= Julie from jbulie’s blog´s last blog ..12 things I wish I knew before I started a blog. =-.

  32. 02.07.2010

    I hear you with the cold! As I am writing this my feet are frozen and the massive blanket covering me is not heating me at all! We are staying with Giuseppe’s parents, who have a big house, and marble floors which are beautiful but FREEZING!

    A colleague here in Calabria has central heating that somehow she imported from the Uk and got her husband to install…I am going to do some research into that as I am sick of being cold all the time!

    If you want to get a *more* central heating structure, you can do that with an ordinary woodstove as well; you just have to get the other parts installed throughout the house too…we’re planning on doing that when we have some more euros πŸ˜‰

  33. Caterina B

    Wow! Scores of responses to this lovely stove. I love mine, too. There is nothing so cozy as sitting by it on Sunday morning with the cup of coffee, three doggies and two kitties, (and Hubby, too) while the snow is falling outside. It is worth every penny you spent!

    michelle Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more, Caterina; probably the best house-related purchase so far (since I haven’t gotten a proper kitchen installed yet)!

  34. Mirella Marshall

    My husband and I also restored my very old medieavl house – a family home – in a village in Calabria. When we go in the spring, the weather outside is beautiful but our house is freezing…and it does chill you to the bone! I don’t know how my grandparents and their children did it.
    My mom used to tell me that they would huddle around a fire in the corner of the room. I was so surprised when I saw the “fireplace”…before the renovation…there was no chimney.
    They used to keep the animals below the house and they produced warmth as well.
    This year we want to install a pellet stove so we can go any time of year. I would love wood but pellets are easier to come by.
    I like your stove. It looks so cozy. Auguri!
    My Italian needs work πŸ™‚ Ciao.

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

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