By Claudia Quesito
La casa—which translates as both “home” and “house”—holds a special place for Italians. In fact, 80% of them own a place, and, in most cases, it is their primary home. Renting is generally considered a temporary option in between living at your family’s and buying your own place.
Italians use the term casa to refer to a number of things: un appartamento (a single unit in an apartment block), una casa indipendente (a detached house), una villetta or casa a schiera (a semi-detached or terraced house), or villa or villetta (the equivalent of a villa).
It is pretty uncommon to rent anything other than an appartamento. Condomini (apartment blocks) are typically located in cities, bigger towns and like pretty much everywhere else, the more sparse the population, the more detached houses are the norm.
The emotional relationship Italians have with the place they live in/own is usually strong, partly because moving is not as ordinary as in the US. It is not uncommon for people to move only once or twice in their lifetime, going from the place they were raised to the one they share with their partner.
As for the casa itself, there are remarkable differences between Italy and the US. Wall-to-wall carpeting is uncommon in Italy (it used to be a thing in the 1970s and 1980s, but that’s no longer true); instead, floors are either tile or wood. Sash windows—standard in the US—are virtually unknown in Italy, where you’ll find casement windows (the ones that open inward or outward like a door).
Even in the oldest apartment blocks, washing machines are in-unit; there is no such thing as a laundry room in the basement. Dryers have gained popularity lately, but they are still unusual. Italians use drying racks or drying threads, though the latter are more and more unusual.
To store clothes, Italians use armadi (armoires) and cassettiere (chests of drawers). La cabina armadio (closet), when present, is usually fancy and custom-designed. Aside from the dryer, appliances are pretty much the same, but the Italian versions are smaller; you could hardly cook a whole US-sized turkey in an Italian oven.
Appliances also have somewhat different uses. Italians, for example, usually use the microwave oven to heat homemade meals, not to cook or heat food straight from the freezer.
Despite all these differences, both Italians and Americans use the same expression to express love for their home: casa dolce casa, which translates literally as “home sweet home.”