It’s no secret that I am not a fan of doing laundry in Italy. Ok, so who’s a fan of doing laundry in general, right? Well, I am pretty certain Italian women are fans of it. I’ve mentioned before that if ironing was an Olympic sport, the Italians would win gold every time. And in my latest Our Paesani column for Italiansrus, “Italian Laundry and How It Divides Us,” I explain how dirty clothes can unearth cultural differences that you may never have known existed. I unintentionally provide a tutorial on how to become an Olympian of laundry, too. Now, I’m going to avoid ending this entry by referencing the cliche, “airing my dirty laundry.” I guess the temptation was too strong. Sorry.
Here in Italy, women take laundry to a new level. I have always considered myself capable. I know how to use a washing machine and detergent. Since my son was born, I have been dealing with milk, poop, urine, and baby food stains with a little bit of Oxy-Clean or some brown soap. I can work a little magic. But these Italian ladies never put their clothes in a drier, wash many things, including delicates, certain sweaters, comforters, and the like, by hand. And they know every product – heavy duty stain removers, special fabric softeners for different kinds of fabric, fabric stiffeners for shirt collars, you name it. If it rains while laundry is out to dry, they run outside like wildfire and get everything down and under cover in seconds. If there was an Olympic game for this, they’d win hands down.
When the laundry is all dry and inside, they iron it. They iron everything – underwear, sheets, even rags. Their irons look like something from another planet. They have a big box under the iron plate, which you fill with water to make steam. They are industrial sized, and they sell special furniture to contain all their ironing equipment – the ironing board, fabric sprays, a tray or two to put folded clothes that have been completed. When it is closed, this furniture looks like a small pantry or cabinet. When their work is complete, these clothes look like they are ready to go on sale at the GAP. They are perfectly folded or on a hanger chic and fabulous. Meanwhile, my laundry is in a pile on the bed after I bring it in from outside here in Ischia, and I fold it as quickly as possible. And I almost never use my professional iron or the piece of furniture for ironing. It looks great with my runner on it, and we have put some pretty candles on display on top of it. I guess I have learned the art of laundry, but I’m not practicing the art of laundry – at least not yet.