Italian Stripes

I just read a post on a popular fashion website that said if they held a contest for “warm weather’s official pattern” it would be stripes.

That got me thinking about the striped patterns I’ve seen all over Italy and how I’m drawn to them. Summertime stripes are especially appealing. Colorful and crisp shirting, swimwear and sun dresses, beach umbrellas and sun lounges are all dressed in stripes along the Italian seaside.

d and ggondolier

From the shirts of Venetian gondoliers whose stripes must be a certain width to the striped marble of Siena’s Duomo, the stripe plays an important visual symbol in Italy beginning with the Italian Tricolore.

As a pattern stripes have a long history in fashion, art and architecture with an uncomplimentary early beginning. In Northern Italy in the early 1300’s decrees and laws existed that prohibited clerics from wearing two colored clothes. Only outcasts and prostitutes wore striped clothing.

women stripes

Three young women condemned to prostitution, saved by Saint Nicolas. Painted mural, northern Italy, about 1340. Pastoureau, Michel. The Devil’s Cloth. A History of Stripes, 2003. 

Fortunately things began to change and stripes started taking on a bold, chic status. European aristocrats and designers realized the ability of the stripe to attract the eye and began using it as a fashion statement.  In Italy Gucci’s signature “blue-red-blue” and “green-red-green” stripe and Missoni’s graphic zigzag colored stripes immediately come to mind. Striped Italian beach and bistro umbrellas and the distinct striped architectural façades of Italy’s medieval churches (Siena, Oriveto, Prato). The stripes of Italy’s Club Soccer Jerseys and the ethereal beauty of Tessitura Pardi ambra stripe linen scarfs. These and many more make a statement of stripes in Italy. 


siena and duomo and interior

Duomo Siena

duomo orvieto

Duomo Orvieto

viareggio beach

 Umbrellas Viareggio Beach


Missoni Dress

scraf linen

Tessitura Pardi Ambra Stripe Linen Scarf

The Scarlet Letter of Italy


letter AFew letters may be as important as the letter A – the first letter of the alphabet, the first vowel, the alpha of omega, the grade we all strive for. Whether emblazoned in literary history as Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter or branded as Apple, Apollo or Abercrombie, the letter A stands out as something special. The evocative nature of the letter A in Italy’s gastro-history is most obvious and apparent when family cooks and chefs speak of aceto (vinegar). An incredible condiment that elevates the flavor of everything it touches.

As an ancient cooking ingredient, vinegar was appreciated for its ability to season and preserve food but nowadays it is most often underrated and misunderstood. There are people who consider vinegar simply ‘wine gone bad,’ buying generic off the shelf brands. However, an artisan produced wine vinegar is a culinary asset with a palate personality that can add a touch of originality to many dishes. Like wine, a proper wine vinegar reflects the terroir of the region. The best wine vinegar is made from grapes that are used to make wine. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling are all used for vinegar production. All are deeply flavored and well worth seeking.

Producing a quality wine vinegar requires respect, tenacity, talent and a strong passion for the product. . Competing with mass-produced industrialized vinegar for the hearts and minds of consumers, small artisan producers often make an artisanal vinegar using barrels made from wood produced on their own land.

modena balsamic vinegarLining the walls of acetaia* (ah-chay-tie-ah) barrel aging takes place over 12, 18 or 24 months. Using a traditional slow percolating process, without mechanical intervention, artisan vinegars develop a depth of flavor reminiscent of a fine wine. An aromatic and flavorful vinegar, is ideal for making better than bottled salad dressings, marinades for grilled meats and vegetables, deglazing roasts and adding a bright tone to cheese, cured meats or stews.

acetaia  ( a vinegar house) is a place where the vinegar is made and aged