Anne's Blog

In Bolsena, the Singing Washerwomen of Tuscia

Date: November 15, 2017 - categories: - 3 Comments

Gathering together at the village wash area to scrub the family laundry was often a social highlight of the day for women of the small villages in Italy. Chattering animated the scrubbing but so did song. In 2013, Simonetta Chiaretti, born in Bolsena in the Tuscia area of central Italy (province of Viterbo, Latium), united a group of thirty multi-generational women together to form La Compagnia delle Le Lavandaie della Tuscia “ (“The Washerwomen Group of Tuscia”). Her desire was “to recuperate this tradition, giving dignity to this work committed to one’s family…..the true emancipation of the woman!”

The older lavandaie of Bolsena still scrub their laundry together at one of the two outdoor lavatoi comunali (“city washhouses”), though the tradition of uniting in song while scrubbing lived on only in past memories. Signora Chiaretti, soprano and “mamma” of the group, is now resurrecting the “singing washerwomen” tradition, having spent years researching past lavandaia melodies, interviewing the elderly washerwomen. The group’s repertoire also includes songs written by Simonetta. inspired by Tuscia’s canti popolari.

Chiara Simonetta leads her lavandaie through the streets of Bolsena, all singing as they go

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The group now performs in central Italy and some of group’s older women also still scrub the family laundry as lavandaie whereas middle-aged women (with washing machines at home) have joined the group in tribute to the fond memories of scrubbing and singing mothers, aunts, grandmothers.

Le Lavandaie della Tuscia – all ages

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The littlest lavandaie enjoy the music, the social interaction with all ages – and living the past history of their village

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On a 2017 August week-end at Lake Bolsena – one of our favorite spots – we enjoyed an added highlight: Le Lavandaie della Tuscia – after scrubbing their wash while united in gusty song at the lavatoio comunale – sashayed through Bolsena’s medieval alleyways, laundry baskets on heads and hips united in song, vacationers following as they snapped photos, shot videos.

An event not to miss:

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….and the washerwomen songs of the Lavandaie della Tuscia, pay tribute to the humble structures in Italian towns even today: the lavatoi comunali:

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Le Lavandaie della Tuscia, scrubbing and singing, Bolsena

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See – and hear!- the singing washerwomen enchant Assisi in 2015
Click here to see – and hear!- Le Lavandaie della Tuscia (“singing washerwomen”)
Click here to see Le Lavandaie della Tuscia in Bolsena
Click here to read about a favorite Bolsena spot
Read about why we love Hotel Eden, Bolsena
Click here to read about other Bolsena treasures
Read about a memorable day at Bolsena
To read about Lake Bolsena’s July Living Tableaux, click here.
Click here to read about another Lake Bolsena gem.
Don’t MISS our favorite Bolsena gelateria!

3 Comments

  • david fleming says:

    How great is this bit of Italian life – past and present! Thanks Anne for the story and especially the photos which show the ladies dedication to the tradition.

  • Jenny Hannan says:

    A great tribute to the working Washer-women. So glad I have a washer-dryer and only wear clothes that need little ironing!

  • Janet Eidem says:

    I LOVE this Annie!!! The Assisi lavatoio has always fascinated me. The YouTube video is so worth watching. Thank you!

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