Sicily: A Scene in Sepia

April 14, 2011

I have a Sicilian friend. Let’s call him “Gianni.”

Gianni is about to open a tourist hotel in my ancient village.

One day Gianni and I were walking down the narrow lane toward his hotel. Sheets were dripping overhead–like in the scene below.

“No good for tourists,” Gianni said scowling and indicating the laundry. “Brutta.” Ugly. Perhaps, he mused, he could get the comune to outlaw laundry in the neighborhood?

Sicily in Sepia, copyright Jann HuizengaI had a fit, of course. “It’s not ugly!!!  It’s bella, bella, bella!”

He gave me that “you’re so weird” look.

Reader, what do you think? Do you think Gianni should try to eradicate hanging laundry in the vicinity of his hotel?


Congratulations to Liz Silva, who won the book raffle: Sweet Lemons 2: International Writings with a Sicilian Accent. Thanks to all of you who entered, and I’m sorry I can’t give everybody a book. But stay tuned for more book contests.


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32 comments to Sicily: A Scene in Sepia

  • Emalene

    Save the laundry. Everyone agrees, anyway no real Italian would give up hanging clothes out to dry even
    if the law was passed.

  • Sam

    I really like the composition in this photo – the way the vertical lines diminish from the left side to the right, interrupted by the figure of the man, and then continue with the hanging laundry.

  • Please keep the laundry! I’ve heard in some northern towns it’s been outlawed–such a shame. I agree it’s bella, bella!

  • Margo Chavez

    I was just in Italy and took photos of hanging laundry because I love the colors. It’s one of my fond memories of Italy. Remind Gianni that something can be lost when we get too “modern.”

  • Nooooo, the laundry must stay. Please tell Gianni we love photographing the sheets, the jeans, the socks and the unmentionables hanging in full view.

    • Jann

      Bonnie, Sicilians tell me they know all about their neighbors by looking at their laundry, including the “unmentionables”. If the undies are brand new and sexy, they’re having an affair, if there are holes in the socks, they’re having financial trouble, and so on and so forth. I always wonder how they “decode” me, with my mismatched stuff hung helter skelter, not with the care they lavish on their displays.

  • Toni

    Tell Gianni that it is better for the environment and he may be shooting himself in the foot – people who would come to his village want to see village life as it is, not as “laws” require it to be for the sake of “his hotel”. How selfish is that?

  • definitely save the hanging laundry! If he really wants tourists, then he’ll need to come to terms with the fact that most of his international guests will stay at his place specifically because of the charmingly traditional neighborhood. We all want a taste of “real” Italy when we visit don’t we?

  • Kathleen Coelingh

    In San Francisco there are no laws against hanging laundry, and from my balcony on the 22nd floor I see laundry flapping all over the neighboring rooftops. And one of my fondest memories of my cat Nancy is her curious habit of bringing home stray socks and panties from the neighboring clotheslines.

  • Matt Grippi

    I agree that the laundry is strangely charming. Coming from a sterile California county, I love the disorder and color. Absolutely don’t get rid of the laundry.

  • Charles

    Italy without hanging laundry would be a travesty. Gianni, I understand why you might think it is bruta, but it is part of the charm of Italia.

  • Bud Agnew

    Please keep the washing. The more colours the better. Some of our best photos and memories of your beautiful country is of the washing.

  • Cathy

    Oh Jann, the laundry has to stay tell him!! Its part of life in every area of the world! I could not believe when reading about here in N.America that there are communities that outlaw clotheslines… Crazy.. I agree, its bella, bella, bella!!

  • Catherine Billups

    Hanging laundry is beautiful. Gianni is wrong.

  • liz

    Please, please, please… tell Gianni the laundry has to stay…that is one of the most beautiful sights to me when I visit Italy…It is life happening above us and around us…SAVE THE LAUNDRY OVERHEAD!!!

    • Jann

      Thank you all for your laundry support!
      I will use your comments to prove to Gianni that I’m not just a lone weirdo, and that the “general consensus” is “sheets SI”. (I don’t know where he thinks these people would dry their sheets, anyway–in their living rooms? Few Sicilians have dryers, a good thing.)

  • Oh, such atmosphere in this picture! Excellent idea to use the sepia tones to add depth and age and mystery to the scene. Of course the laundry hanging across streets and from balconies and windows must remain! It is so much a part of the charm of Italy.


  • Stopping by from Bella’s and kicking myself for not finding your blog sooner ..Love the header .. as for hanging clothes on a clothesline – yes , yes and yes 🙂

  • Jann, I too would have shouted, “It’s bella, bella, bella!” I’m sorry for Gianni, but there’s no way he can prevent people from doing something they’ve been doing forever. I, for one, think clothes drying outside in this fashion adds to the charm of the culture, it’s environmentally friendly, and it just reminds me of days gone by before hideous clothes dryers made their way into our lives. There’s nothing like the smell of bed sheets that have been air-dried on a clothesline in the sun. Ah, crisp, cotton bed sheets! They remind me of my nana!

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