Why is Italy having a cheesy moment ?

You love listening to Toto Cutugno when you’re on vacation but you take it with a pinch of salt?  Well, you’re going to need a second dose of that salt to be able to swallow the new trend that this summer has in store for us, “Italo-kitsch”. Demonstration:

This plate of tiramisu comes from: 1) One of those old Italian restaurants in Paris with aging wood paneling and a Maitre D’Hotel throwing out “Signoras” and “Prego’s” left and right? 2) One of those neo-trattorias from the group Big Mamma with hoards of chic bearded thirty-somethings on scooters standing in line to get in? And the answer is: number 2! In this new Parisian food empire, young English designers created the deco, but the plates – flowered, over decorated – come from the venerable brand Fima Deruta in Umbria. Clever: you’d think that they had come directly from Nonna’s china cupboard and they confer a real authenticity to what’s in them. But moreover, they mark the return of kitsch ceramics and Italy holds the secret. At La Grande Epicerie, Muraglia olive oil is sold in ceramic bottles designed with brightly colored stripes or fish, and the pasta comes wrapped in the same retro spirit. Italy served in a nostalgic sauce? Clearly it’s the dish of the day.

But who started it? Dolce & Gabbana of course, who for the last several seasons has played on the image of a travel agency, offering vintage tours “Splendors of the Amalfi Coast” or Sicily forever”. Widows and Madonnas parade in their fashion shows, their dresses are printed with scooters, the Leaning Tower of Pisa or ice cream cones. And this summer they’ve added ceramics, shiny and brightly colored, with their new collection “Maiolica”, the transalpine equivalent of the Portuguese “azulejos”. Men, women and children’s wear, handbags, IPhone cases, they’re all there, disguised as tiled fountains…or as souvenir store finds? The duo has also re-launched flower pots with “ Traditional Sicilian Saracen Heads”, which are making a big splash in decorating articles or on hip plant-lovers blogs. As to the De Simone boutiques, the famous Palermo pottery influenced by Picasso and local folk art (for better or worse, that depends), it is todays “must have” from any Sicilian jaunt, just like eating cannoli is!

No, grazie, you’ve had enough? Make sure that you haven’t recently bought something covered in lemons, another emblem of Southern Italy: clutch  mug, espadrilles? These citrus fruits are all over,  on shopping bags, on sneakers, bikinis  and tutti quanti. Heading it up, the fast fashion Asos, with ruffled tops, high-waisted skirts, strapless dresses; “lemon” bikinis evoke the golden age of the Italian Riviera. Like the cardigans from J. Crew, very “Jackie O in Positano”. And while fashion reminds of a postcard Italy, on the terraces of the Italian, Israeli or Greek neo-canteens of Paris, we’re sipping a “home-made lemonade”, a perfect vestige of Mediterranean art de vivre. To avoid thinking about what’s really going on today? Dream about Hollywood yachts rather boats of migrants? No doubt, an Italy, carefree and retro is more reassuring than the contemporary version, nationalistic and xenophobic. When la vita is no longer dolce, we hang on to those clichés for dear life.