For some reason, I just love this building and the fact that there’s absolutely nothing on it except for a beautiful wrought iron window and, right in the middle, the image of the Madonna con bambino. If the intention was to create an interesting and sacred focal point I think they nailed it. Don’t you think?
One of the things I miss the most about Italy is la pasticceria, the store that sells sweets and where, as you step in, you start floating one foot above the ground embraced by a delicious fragrance of baked goods. The sfogliatina alla crema that you see above was one of the first sweets I had after arriving in Italy following a long year in the States. I remember I was almost crying for the emotion.
The sfogliatina alla crema is one of the simplest Italian desserts: just cream and puff pastry. And yet it is delicious. Fortunately there is an easy way to duplicate it: get one sheet of puff pastry (easily available in the grocery stores), unroll it, place it on a baking sheet, preferably using parchment paper, put it in the preheated oven (350°F) for about 10 minutes or until it has risen and it has a nice, golden color. At that point take it out, immediately cut it in half horizontally, lift the top, spread the custard cream on the bottom, put the top back on, sprinkle it with some powdered sugar, and you get a simplified version of the Italian sfogliatina alla crema.
One day I found an unexpected parcel at my door step. Curious, I opened it thinking that maybe it was something I ordered and then forgot about (which sometimes happens to me). What I actually found was an interesting illustration book and a notecard box, kindly gifted to me by the Princeton Architectural Press.
The book, Grafica della Strada: The Signs of Italy by Louise Fili is a compilation of restaurant, shop, hotel, street, and advertising signs that the author has collected over the past 30 years during her trips to Italy. The images have been divided in chapters that reflects the typographic style of the signs: classical, traditional, eclectic, futurist, fascist, and so on.
These are some of my favorites:
These are the four marble panels of the Farmacia di San Marco in Florence. Although the pharmacy has been closed since the end of World War I, its façade still displays a list of elixirs and remedies that used to be sold during its golden years (how cool is this?).
In the chapter about traditional signs there’s this photo that I really like and that, if you pay attention, you can still see everywhere in Italy outside the alimentari stores (family ran grocery stores):
It is a list of the most important items for sale in the store.
I like this sign because it shows a beautiful light effect, and most importantly the dedication of Mrs. Fili who waited for the sun to settle down and the illumination to turn on in order to catch this image.
I’ve selected this photo for the Sermoneta sign on the bottom of the page. I find its characters very elegant and unique, besides the fact that the actual town of Sermoneta is one of my favorite Medieval villages in Italy.
I couldn’t stop smiling after seeing this image. I do remember, when I was a child, many bars using this kind of beaded curtains. You don’t see many nowadays, and if you do, they are usually found in smaller cities and towns.
Mosaic signs are an artistic expression very common in the Italian città d’arte, some are made to lead tourists to a restaurant, as shown above.
I find the image above particularly interesting, first for its message (Duce= Mussolini), second because it hasn’t been removed after Mussolini’s fall. To me, it’s a piece of history well preserved (you can find it in the Foro Italico in Rome).
Louise Fili, a graphic designer with a love for all things Italian, is also the author of Quattro Parole Italiane Notecards (available on Amazon), a beautiful collection of notecards with four different Italian words printed on the front:
This is such a clever idea as well as a beautiful gift to give to anyone who loves Italy.
I think that Grafica della Strada: the Signs of Italy by Louise Fili (available also in Kindle format) is a very unique approach to an aspect of Italy that often times is forgotten or simply goes unnoticed, but that nevertheless is a part of its artistic heritage.