Laundry Lines

December 16, 2009 / Local Interest
Vetralla, Lazio

laundrylines1So the laundry has been washed…what about drying it?

These photos show that solar energy is still the preferred method for drying laundry in most parts of Italy. On sunny days balconies are festooned with laundry except in some historic towns like Venice where the practice is forbidden for it would mar the facades of noble buildings and tourists’ photos as well. Many families in northern Italy now depend on electric dryers (not as much sun in those parts either).

laundrylines2Pay close attention and you’ll notice that laundry lines also tell us something about the people. The line-up of aprons shows that the home owner is probably a cook or runs a shop selling food.

laundrylines3These drying jeans hanging from a balcony in Vetralla hide one of the town’s oldest monuments lodged above the ugly metallic garage door and a half collapsed balcony. The unmistakable papal logo of a tiara and crossed keys is a testimony of the visit of Pope Nicholas V Tomasso Parentucelli who reigned as Pope between 1447 and 1455 and visited Vetralla during the summer of 1454.

Or again…in the tiny town of Onano which straddles the Tuscan-Lazio border we came across this mono-thematic clothesline. The Fiat 500 and Piaggio scooter parked under the house confirm that this homeowner appreciates…. iconic retro Italian design.

Visit Mary Jane’s site to learn about “Olio e Ricordi in Cucina”, the bi-lingual recipe book dedicated to cooking with extra virgin olive oil. Order signed copies direct from authors, Fulvio Ferri & Mary Jane Cryan in time for Christmas.”

Mary Jane Cryan

by Mary Jane Cryan

Mary Jane is a historian, cruise lecturer, author and publisher of books on Italian history and central Italy has been residing in Italy for half a century.

See her award winning website and weekly blog posts on 50YearsInItaly for more about central Italy and to order books directly from the author.

9 Responses to “Laundry Lines”

  1. I love seeing laundry hanging on lines in Italy — we have been to Tuscany area twice and hope to go again in 2012 — I have a good picture of aprons hanging out on a line — thanks for the nice memories — I have even tried to find a clothesline for my back yard —

  2. Lee McIntyre
    Lee McIntyre

    Thanks for interesting note! Here in Bolzano/Bozen, people don’t typically have electric dryers, either – and the clothes are hung out, sun or no!

  3. Evanne Brandon Diner

    Thanks, Mary Jane for the cheery note on a drab day in Italy. Do you remember the time Prime Minister Berlusconi hosted the G8 in Genoa and told all the residents in advance to be sure not to hang out their laundry, for it would be seen when the dignitaries arrived into the port? Well, the residents hung out laundry on every balcony, and the story is still fodder for a good laugh.

  4. If hanging out the laundry is forbidden in Venice, then most of the populace is breaking the law! When I was there just 3 years ago, I took photo after photo of laundry lines strung between buildings and all of the laundry hanging – it was rather charming.

  5. Love this story…we have a picture of a pair of pink men’s boxer shorts taken during a gondola ride in the canals of Venice! Buon Natale!

  6. Delightful! Everyone loves seeing laundry hanging outside of charming balconies everywhere in Italy! I even remember our neighbors in Vietri sul Mare putting sheets of plastic over the wet clothes when it was raining! Our next door neighbor was better at forecasting the weather than the TV meteorologist (we called him the General). If Rosaria hung out her clothes, you could be sure it was not going to rain! I loved the simple act of hanging out laundry everywhere we lived! Charming & informative note!

  7. Leigh Farrell

    I have always found the view of laundry hanging off of balconies charming as well. In Trastevere, one of our favorite restaurants was painted on the interior to look like an italian exterior, and clotheslines of “unmentionables” were strung from one faux balcony to the another.


Leave a Reply