There are principally three different kind of gas services available, this not too dissimilar from the US. In urban settings, each apartment will have natural gas (gas naturale), also known as methane (metano). In rural settings, especially small villas, one may have a large gas canister that it refilled by tanker. This is usually Liquid Propane (Gas Propano Liquido). Wherever these kinds are not available, then a one will have to use portable gas canister (bombole).
Gas is used for cooking, producing hot water and heating the house. The heating could be via an integrated unit (caldaia) that produces hot water and heat up radiators (or floor heating) or via portable heating units (stufetta a gas).
Natural gas and propane are not interchangeable. Since they have different caloric values, appliances must be set for one or the other. So, when you are buying a new appliance (cooktop, heating unit, etc.) make sure you are buying the right one.
Note that the heating unit (caldaia) must be inspected and certified every year by a licensed technician. Failing to have the heating unit inspected may cost you a fine ranging between € 500 and € 3,000. Each unit comes with a booklet (libretto d’impianto). Failing to have such a booklet – used to registered scheduled maintenance – will cost you an additional € 500 or € 600. Each region has its own regulations, even though the law is at a national level. Check with your real estate agent before signing any lease and or buying a house.
Like for electricity, Italy has created an open market and thus you may choose your favorite and less expensive provider. In our experience, having the same provider for electricity and gas makes it easy to manage. Prices fluctuates especially because most natural gas is imported.
While electrical meters are read remotely via an electronic device, gas meters are still subject (in most cases) to manual reading. Reading happens every two or three month or never… If one does not want to see the bill go up and down, or get a onetime shocker, it is best to do your own monthly reading and report it to the provider via their Web interface.
If you have a house with gas canisters, you are in a remote area or in a very old house. Canisters, despite some urban legends, are not any more dangerous than any other kind of gas. All gas of any type is highly odorized so that a leak can be detected quickly. The only peculiar thing to notice is that the hookup of the gas pressure regulator to the gas canister – this is the device that lower the high pressure in the canister to low pressure used by the appliances – has a reversed thread. Therefore, the nut is tightened going from right to left and loosen going from left to right.
They usually come in 10 kg or 25 kg size. Check your appliance before you buy one. Providers demand a security deposit for any new canister your use. In most small towns, the reseller (bombolaio o bombolaro, depends on the local dialect) will usually install it for you but this is happening less and less as this technology is becoming obsolete. Each new canister comes with a rubber gasket to be inserted between the canister and the pressure regulator: never reuse the old one. Canisters should be turned off whenever not in use. This is not convenient, but safe. The shut off valve is right on top of the canister and easy to operate.
BBQ or Camping Gas Canisters
These are are different from regular gas canister and not compatible with the kind available in the US. The American gas regulator will not fit a European canister and needs to be replaced. Ultimately, it is best to buy everything locally to make sure that it complies with EU rules.