01 June 2008

Doing Laundry in Rome

The first time we did laundry here, it was a production to figure out the machine. Faced with these dials, what would you do?

Below, the water heater and its various buttons:

The third photo indicates our water heater. I finally figured out that if I pushed the button and held it in, a green light turned on and stayed on. That turned on the hot water.

Next, one puts the clothing and soap into the washing machine. I have a front-laoding machine at home, so I guessed that the slots might be the same. If not, we may have been putting soap into the bleach slot. There are no labels in the little drawer. Here's the machine, in its little nook in the bathroom:

Next, one must select a cycle. There are a number of cycles. Not knowing the machine, I opted for the cycle indicating the least washing time, Delicado (40). Then, I was faced with buttons to begin the washer. One appeared to be spin cycle (centrifugo). The one that seemed most likely “par lavaggio” did nothing. I tried each button, to no avail. We looked for a book, but the apartment does not have one. It turns out, after some experimentation, that beginning the wash requires holding down (not just pressing) the “Avvio Pausa” button.

Once the wash completes (almost three hours for a full load, two for a delicates load), the wash must be hung out to dry. Each house has its own lines. Some of them are out a single window, as one of our neighbors and the nuns across the way have. Others are giant lines running the entire length of a building. The nuns across the street in the other direction have one on the rooftop, but most are out a window. Our lines are short and reaching the furthermost one requires leaning almost in half from the waist. I am very, very pleased I thought to bring along clothespins. It is 88 steps to our apartment, and going down and up 88 and rewashing a garment is an experience I could do without. Here is a picture of our line, filled with a load of wash:

We are counting ourselves lucky that we do not have to carry our laundry to other apartments, as we hear others are doing. The line system works very nicely for us.

Although many of my colleagues are missing dryers, I am pleased to have my clothing fitting comfortably. It smells fresh after being outdoors, as well. I grew up with clothing line-dryed, so in some ways it feels like coming home. In others, I miss my dry cleaner and dryer—cotton takes forever to air-dry. I would like to integrate some line-drying back into my laundry life, however. It may be a bit more difficult there, as laundry outdoors is expected here, but it will also help me to decrease energy consumption, a goal Greg (my spouse) and I share.

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Works Cited

Fiona Wild, ed. Eyewitness Travel Rome (London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1993), 2007 edition.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Marble Faun. New York: Penguin Books, 1990/1860.

James, Henry. Daisy Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 2005/1878.

Powers, Alice Leccese. Italy in Mind: An Anthology. Toronto: Vintage Books, 1997.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves' Italy 2007. New York: Avalon Travel Publishing, 2006.