Recycling in Italy

recycling bins in Italy

One of the most perplexing things about living in Italy is how they handle trash and recycling. To say it’s not straightforward is an understatement.

Back in our hometown in the States recycling is a no-brainer. All recyclable materials go into one bin together: cans, bottles, plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum foil. And recycling gets picked up the same day as the garbage, so you only have to think about it once a week.

Not so in Italy. Here you practically need a PhD to understand the rules for recycling. It’s so convoluted that they give you an eight page booklet to explain it.

First off, you need to sort your trash into several categories:

  1. Plastic and metal cans
  2. Paper, cardboard, aseptic packaging
  3. Bottles and glass
  4. Organic waste
  5. All other garbage

Each type of trash and recycling goes into its own color-coded bag and then into the designated bin at a roadside pick-up location. You pick up the bags at the comune offices: blue bags for plastic and metal cans, brown for paper and cardboard, white for organic waste (“umido”) and yellow for all other garbage. Glass doesn’t get a bag. It just gets dumped directly into the roadside bin, though of course you need a bag or bin to keep it in at your house until you take it to the collection bin.

Oh, and they don’t pick it all up on the same day, so you’re always trying to remember what gets collected on which day. In our comune Monday is garbage day, Tuesday is plastic and metal pick-up and Thursday is paper and cardboard collection day.¬† You can put glass in the roadside bin anytime. You can also put out the organic waste anytime but not every collection point has one for organic so you may have to drive to another one to leave your umido.

I shouldn’t complain. I read somewhere that Italy is #1 in the EU for waste recycling, so I guess it’s all for a good cause. Back home, where they make recycling so easy, I’m pretty sure a lot of it ends up in the landfill.

Abbey of Chiaravalle di Fiastra and Nature Reserve

Not far from our house is an old abbey dating back to the 12th century. On the last trip I made alone, I decided to spend Sunday afternoon there, exploring the church and grounds.

The abbey was founded by twelve Cistercian monks in 1142. They drained the marshy land, created extensive farmlands and built the church and monastery using material from the ancient Roman settlement of Urbs Salvia. They also built roads and bridges, wineries and oil presses, and the abbey became one of the most powerful religious communities in Central Italy until the 1400s.

I got there in time to see a bride arriving for her wedding. Given that a wedding was going on, I wasn’t able to check out the inside of the church on this visit. Maybe next time.

What I did do was go for a hike around the Nature Reserve that surrounds the abbey. The Nature Reserve, established in 1984, is comprised of 4,448 acres of both cultivated land and woodlands, and is protected by the World Wildlife Fund.

There are three main trails of varying lengths, but all relatively flat. There are also shaded grassy areas perfect for picnicking, and on weekends you’ll see lots of families relaxing under the trees, kicking the soccer ball around or playing frisbee.


It was HOT and I was both thirsty and hungry after walking, so I decided to have lunch at the Ristorante da Rosa, the restaurant on the grounds. It was packed with families enjoying their Sunday lunch. The food and service was quite good and, if you can sit on the patio or the main part of the restaurant the atmosphere is pleasant. As forthe menu, I can recommend the pappardelle alla lepre (pasta with hare ragu). The arrosto misto (mixed grill) is also good, but I didn’t care for the tagliatelle alla papera (pasta with duck sauce).

Deciding What To Bring With Us To Italy

Items that are hard to find in Italy

Now that the house is complete, we have to go about furnishing it.

That raises the inevitable question about what, if anything, we will bring or send from the States. Some people move with whatever they can fit in a suitcase or two. Others end up shipping pretty much everything they own.

We’ll probably be closer to the former. For one thing, we won’t be there full-time initially. We don’t plan to sell our US house for another year. For another, we are at the point in our lives where we want to streamline things and live more simply. We will probably end up selling or giving way most of our stuff. Besides, shipping a big container is expensive.

So I envision us buying the furniture and most of what we need once we’re there, and bringing (or sending) clothes, personal items and a few books, plus those things that are difficult to find or expensive to buy in Italy:


I am not a cook, though living in Italy might just be the nudge I need to finally learn. Ed, on the other hand, is a good cook and so he plans to bring his favorite cookware and knives. We’ve been told that high quality cookware can be quite pricey in Italy.

Something Ed noticed on his latest visit to the house is how tiring it is to stand on a tile floor for an extended period of time, so we’ll be sending at least one of those anti-fatigue mats for the kitchen.

Here are some of the other things we’ll be packing:

Rubbermaid storage containers
Ice cube trays
Potato peeler
Gallon Ziploc freezer bags (you can get smaller Ziplocs at IKEA and a few other places, but the big, thick ones are hard to find).
Aluminum foil and Saran Wrap
Non-metric measuring cups and spoons (to make American recipes)
Large plastic drinking glasses

Spices & ingredients

Everyone loves Italian food, but we non-Italians sometimes want a little variety in our cuisine: Mexican Thai, Indian, etc. Good luck finding ethnic restaurants, unless you’re in a big city. Not only are they a relative rarity, but so are the ingredients to make ethnic dishes, not to mention traditional American recipes (especially when it comes to baking). You need to bring your own. Here’s my list so far:

Chili power
Taco seasoning
Coriander seeds
Celery seeds
Ground cloves
Vanilla extract
Maple syrup
Baking powder
Brownie mix
Chocolate chips
Peanut butter (you can get it in Italy but it just isn’t the same)
BBQ sauce
Brown sugar
Packets of dry gravy mix and ranch salad dressing
Canned pumpkin

Personal Care

While prescription meds tend to be cheaper in Italy, OTC meds are almost always more expensive, so we’ll stock up on those:

Huge double pack of Ibuprofen from Costco (very expensive in Italy)
Non-drowsy Benadryl
Pepto Bismol
Aquafresh toothpaste

Towels and Bedding

The towels I’ve seen tend to be small and thin and more expensive than here. Washcloths are non-existent. I plan to stock up at Bed, Bath and Beyond and HomeGoods.

The bed sizes are a little different in Italy (a bit longer and a bit narrower), but US sheets can still work, and we have a better selection at lower prices.

That’s it. When I think about it, there really isn’t that much we’ll need to bring.¬† I’m pretty sure that over time we’ll find acceptable substitutes for most things or discover we don’t really need them after all.

But for now having a few things from home should help ease the transition.

What would you take with you if you were moving to Italy?

Image: Copyright © Our Big Italian Adventure

Our Kitchen Is Finished!

When we started designing our little house, the one thing we wanted was an open floor plan … we wanted one big room with the kitchen at one end, the living room at the other and the dining table in the middle.

And we wanted an American-style kitchen, with an island, a decent-sized refrigerator, plenty of storage and counter space and a wine fridge. Most of the kitchens we had seen in existing farmhouses (at least in our price range) were cramped, with not enough storage or counter space. And with curtains instead of doors on the lower cabinets. “No curtains!” was my first direction to Angelo, our kitchen designer.

And Ed wanted an ice-maker. Not just an ice-maker in the freezer (which is rare enough in Italy) but a stand-alone ice-maker (what can I say, Ed is into ice, and lots of it). Angelo looked at him as though he had three heads. Needless to say, Ed did not get his ice-maker.

We spent most of the day at Angelo’s showroom in Civitanova going over our extensive list of needs and wants and picking out the cabinet design and counters. I was tempted to pick something safe and classic, like white, but we ended up going for a greenish-gray color for the cabinets.

OK, not the best picture, but here’s how our kitchen turned out:

I think our full size refrigerator and freezer might be overkill for Italy…. in fact I think our whole kitchen might be overkill…but at least we can stock up with food and wine before a big snowstorm.

Despite designing our American-style kitchen we still ended up with a microwave that is tiny on the inside and an oven that will not fit a big roasting pan with a turkey. But I’m sure we’ll adapt.

Now that the kitchen is done we are starting to think about all the stuff we’ll need to bring or buy to outfit it. I’ve already started filling my cart at

Building the Fireplace

We are getting close to the end of construction. One of the last things to do is build the fireplace.

Although a pellet stove would have been a more effective source of heat, we thought an open fire would make the place feel cozier, so we opted for that.

Given all the doors along the backside of the house, the only place that made sense to put a fireplace¬† was in the corner of the living room. That actually works well because it means we can see it from the kitchen and dining area as well as the living room. Here’s the design we came up with.

However, the corner location restricted its size and we found we couldn’t make it as big as we wanted. Not the end of the world.

Since we wanted the fireplace to fit with the rustic character of the house, we decided to build it out of brick and stone using an old wood beam for a mantel and a space to store wood below the firebox.

Here’s the stone we found for the front of the firebox:

fireplace stone being lifted on crane

Here it is in place:

Here’s the old beam we found for the mantel:

The chimney pipe is covered in plaster:

Ta-dah! Here’s the finished fireplace:

Now all we need to do is test to see if it draws properly and then we’ll be ready for a cozy fire.