For eons, tourists have come to Italy and have giddily snapped photos: of Florence's Duomo and Rome's Pantheon, of the Amalfi Coast and the Umbrian countryside, of fountains and piazzas, of Fiat 500's and Vespas, of monuments and mouth-watering Carabinieri--and I get it. I get it.
But what I've never understood is why laundry hanging out to dry should warrant a place in the family photo album, or worse, in travel articles advocating the glories of a particular Italian location (I'm thinking specifically of a recent New York Times article on Naples, with its clichéd and apparently obligatory photo of Neapolitan-style biancheria*). I mean, it's laundry for Chrissake. Granted, Italian laundry--but those aren't exactly Missoni dishtowels or Valentino skivvies hanging up there. Hardly. Why is the sight of some old lady's pantyhose or a few faded bedsheets considered charming and so very Italian, merely because there are cobblestones below and a fiendish bureaucrat (doubtless) nearby? I have a theory--unproven--that familiar objects take on uncharacteristic appeal when they are superimposed on a foreign locale.
|How adorable! Laundry all'italiano!|
As an experiment, I recently pretended I was an Italian tourist in Portland, Oregon and snapped a photo of the clothes-drying rack in my friends' apartment (of course, all Americans have dryers--though some may elect to let certain items air dry--which makes capturing an image of native laundry all the more difficult):
|That rare and most elusive of commodities: American laundry|
Now you tell me, dear Readers--what's the big effin' deal about laundry?!
My best regards,
* I don't know about you, but the sight of indigenous underwear doesn't make me want to immediately jump on a plane in order to revel in Italian cultura.