Hung Out to Dry in Italy!

July 8, 2016 / Local Interest
Italy

When I see laundry hanging on drying racks and makeshift clothes lines on balconies, outside windows, across alleys and just about anywhere, I know I’m in Italy! And I simply can’t resist taking photos…

Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio

As I saunter the streets and passageways of every Italian town and village, my eye is always caught by the washing… hanging here and there, basking in the sunshine, telling their stories.

Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio

Everything from undies and overalls to dish towels and diapers, jeans and jerseys, socks and shirts…and of every size, color, and style imaginable. Some faded and well worn, some bright and brand new but all revealing a little about who lives inside; gender, size, age and even their livelihood and pastimes. All in public and subject to speculation -no secrets here!

Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio

Fluttering freely in the fresh air and seemingly without a care, everything from slacks to sheets flap gaily in the gentle breezes. Basking shamelessly in the warm sunlight, stretching out, dangling and dancing before going back in the closet or drawer, ready for the next call of duty.

Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio

I always have slightly mixed feelings about taking photos of other people’s laundry. It’s a little like peeking into someone’s closets or drawers. Sometimes I take them surreptitiously or hurriedly so as not to invade someone’s privacy but then again, the laundry is hanging out in public? And, well, I find it just too tempting.

Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio

When I travel I’m often asked how I do my laundry while on the road — well, I do it by hand of course! And I have to wonder what story someone else would write about my laundry?

Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio
Laundry - Victoria De Maio

So, in honor of and as a tributeto my own Mother who washed everything by hand and only with respect and praise for those whose laundry appears here… I thank you for being my muse.

– Photos from Puglia, Tuscany, Umbria, Rome, Venice

Laundry - Victoria De Maio

Victoria De Maio

by Victoria De Maio

Victoria is a lover of all things Italian! A travel advisor, blogger, writer, tour leader, and published author, she is passionate about traveling to and writing about Italy.

Her book, Victoria’s Travel Tipz Italian Style, is available on Amazon.

Join Victoria for her fabulous unique, boutique tours of Puglia,, and the Italian Riviera.

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30 Responses to “Hung Out to Dry in Italy!”

  1. Great piece! I enjoyed it reading. I would like to add that this is not only an Italian tradition, but rather Mediterranean; in Greece you will see the laundry hanging out as well. I confess that, even after 17 years in Washington DC, every time I use the dryer I feel a sense of frustration….
    Thanks again and happy summer!

    Reply
      • I have made several trips to Italy throughout my adult life. Like many others, I too noticed how prevalent line drying is in Italy and other Mediterranean countries. In my opinion, this makes perfect sense for so many reasons. Sunshine is free and fresh air makes clothes smell good. Also dryers beat up your clothes; that explains those fuzzies in the lint trap. When the weather is not cooperating, no matter where one lives, then use a drying rack (a “stendino” in Italian) and let the clothes dry indoors in some out of the way spot. I even have some fun colored clothespins from Ikea. I’m sure I have saved hundreds of dollars on my electric bills over the years, and not to mention, kept the heat of the dryer out of the house during the warm summer months. I am also disappointed when I hear about restrictions placed on line drying in communities with strict HOA policies. I think this is the case in Arizona where I live. In that case, I would be line drying in the least conspicuous area possible (for example, garage or basement or place the drying lines as low as possible out of sight; or at the very least using the drying rack in the bathroom). So glad you posted this article. As you can probably tell, this topic resonates with me even on a moral level. To see that dryer spinning and spinning somehow seems morally wrong when nature gave us some beautiful options. I know new moms with tons of laundry may not jump on this ship too quickly, but I hope more folks who are able to do so will consider line drying when possible.

        Reply
  2. I have been to Italy a number of times and seeing the laundry hanging out takes me back to my youth. Growing up in a Chicago Italian neighborhood, that was the norm. Everyone hung their clothes on lines outdoors to dry. This, of course, was before electric and gas clothes dryers became a mainstay in the home. I do miss the smell of freshly air dried laundry!

    Reply
  3. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Brava Victoria! Giving space and celebrating the happy use of free beautiful sunshine and wind! I never understand the over use of dryers. When such drying luxuries exist naturally and for free. Brava!

    Reply
  4. Joseph Spano
    Joseph Spano

    We always notice the clothing drying in the streets, we smile…it was a tradition that was carried over by my mother when she came to America…every laundry day (almost every day) the clothes would go out the windows and in the alley to dry,right here in Philadelphia…

    Reply
  5. Ginny Siggia

    In the US at least there are too many manicured neighborhoods that prohibit the use of clotheslines. Even in parts of Arizona, where there are “buckets” of sunshine. It is ridiculous, and selfish. When I bought my house, I noted with delight (and relief) that there was a clothesline! Well, it’s hidden from view by coincidence of the property layout, but it was still a selling point, in my opinion. I remember also on a chorus tour in Spain that we hung our hand laundry on the balcony of the hotel. It was mid-July and the temps were over 100, but the humidity was quite low. My concert skirt was dry practically before I finished arranging it on the railing. I have photos to prove all of this.

    Reply
  6. Mairin O'Mahony

    I love to take pix of laundry too. One of my favourites is a row of soccer jerseys on a line in Canneregio. A very good soccer Mamma no doubt, taking care of the whole team’s wash!

    Reply
  7. Hazel Rotondo Potvin

    I like seeing the laundry too. A favorite pace was a neighborhood in Venice away from the touristy area. The lines were strung across a wide courtyard.

    Reply
  8. Joanne Insull

    I do love taking those photos also when in Italy, and hang laundry outside here in Rochester. I was told it is not good if you have allergies, and when I mentioned it to my husband who has allergies, he said he didn’t care, he’d rather have the smell of sheets hung outside.

    Reply
  9. bonnie melielo

    I love hanging my wash outside, which in Alaska is limited to just a very few months. During the rest I line dry inside my house. Growing up we had a clothesline in the basement for cold weather months, as did my nonna. Both my girls line dry inside. They don’t have the time to try and hang outside and judge the weather. Being retired has its perks. :-)

    Reply
  10. Mary I Davin

    I was born in Trieste, Italy and remember our clothing hanging out to dry even in winter. My Zia Pina brought in a frozen bathrobe that was as stiff as a board. Oh how we all laughed! Why do we think it’s strange to hang stuff out to dry in America, yet all over the world, it’s quite ordinarily normal?

    Reply
  11. Lynne

    I worry about Venetian washing: if it falls in the canal, you have to go down and fish it out.

    Reply
    • You learn to hang on really tight. I have lost clothes pins, but no clothes. I currently live on the 4th floor in Lucca, so I don’t have to worry any more about the canals, but I still don’t want to drop anything. It is a long way down.

      Reply
  12. Lina Falcone

    I like to see the laundry hung out also the clothes smell so fresh. Thanks for the article.

    Reply
  13. Marianna raccuglia

    A tad voyeuristic, no? (I just love it, reminds me of my long ago youth)

    Reply
  14. Rick black

    This isn’t a comment, but a cry in the dark for help. We are off to the Lecce area next month to attend a wedding. Yes, that is correct, a wedding …in August…in Southern Italy. Hot, moist and sticky. But since we have been “part of the family” for more than 40 years. We are flying from Arizona for the event. Here’s where we need some help: What is considered an appropriate gift? We can’t bring anything material because of the weight limits and customs problem. If we give Euros, what is too little–too much? BTW, this is not Americans going to Italy to get married, it is a real Matrimonio Italiano.

    Reply

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