The Neapolitan Art of Hanging Laundry

As we toured the Naples ‘quartieri’ with our guide, Assunta, she explained how to hang up laundry.

There’s an art to it.

Her mother told her. Then she told us.

“What do you think is wrong with this?” She pointed to a balcony she strongly disapproved of. A good teacher, she used a questioning approach so we’d put on our thinking caps.

Several of us scratched our heads.

“The clothes are folded in half!” a know-it-all to my left blurted.

“Esatto!” said Assunta. “They take longer to dry. It leaves an unattractive crease. What else?”

“They’re inside out?” The same know-it-all said.

“Esatto!” she said. “Most unbecoming. It’s like, how do you say, giving the finger to your neighbors.” Across the alley, the neighbors are mere meters away, the laundry is in their face. “What else?”

“The pajama tops and bottoms should hang next to each other?” You-know-who said.

“Esatto!” Assunta smiled at her favorite student. “What else?”

No one could think of anything else, not even the know-it-all.

“Whoever heard of pinning a green clothespin on a pair of gray leggings? Your clothespins need to match the clothes!” Assunta laughed. It was obvious, right? “No doubt the husband did it. No housewife I know of would commit such errors!”

“But doesn’t that take ages?” I asked.

“Yes, it does. That’s why I bought all white pins when I got married. It saves me much time.”

We ambled along. We studied laundry. Finally we found a balcony that met with Assunta’s approval.

Here’s why:

No doubled clothing. Sheets in front. Pillowcases are paired. Smaller items are toward the back. Intimate items like socks and underpants are hidden completely from view on the clothesline nearest the balcony railing. In addition, these items look as if they’ve been brightened with bleach. The overall effect is one of modesty. No, of purity. Assunta kissed her fingertips bunched like a flower.

One small error: a pink clothespin on the right, but since there is pink in the lace on the pillowcase, it’s forgivable as it ‘matches’.

The next day, while we were studying laundry on our own, I spotted this. The way the waistbands had been doubled over might have been deemed sloppy, but I think Assunta would have liked the rainbow effect.

Don’t you?


We tourists have a fascination with laundry, and the guides who guide us like to have their fun. Thanks, Assunta, for a great morning together!

2 thoughts on “The Neapolitan Art of Hanging Laundry

  1. I LOVE IT! If I ever have a production company I’m going to call it Washday and the visual will be a (properly-hung) clothesline.

  2. I used to hang diapers and more diapers and bibs in freezing weather. Each was solid by the time I got to the next. I was in danger of leaving skin of my fingers o the metal clothes line. So I did not worry about anything but getting my self back in the warm house.

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