Colours in Italy: Use and Cultural References

Which are the colours connected with Italy? And which roles do they play in the Italian culture? Read more to discover it!

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The fourth topic of #12WeeksInItaly on Instagram was “colours”. It might seem stupid to say, but colours are important. We don’t realize it, because we never truly pay attention, but colours play multiple roles in our culture and everyday life. They can have a functional role, as they are used in the road signage, or a symbolic role, as many different colours are involved in rituals and religions, just to give an example.

SYMBOLIC USE OF COLOURS

If I have to connect Italy with specific colours, two of them come into my mind.

  • LIGHT-BLUE

Light-blue, or to better say azzurro, is the Italian colour par excellence. Just think about our National team, the songs and all the cultural references connected with it.

  • RED

Concerning the red colour, the cultural references are just as abundant, even if it has never been picked as a representative colour for the country,  if we do not consider racing red, the official colour of Italian cars picked by the International Automobile Federation in motor racing.

Just think about art: starting from the famous Titian red, used constantly by the painter in his works, the Venetian – and the Pompeiian red – the latter still visible in the walls of the villas of the famous city submerged by the ashes of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Being the colour of passion – a sentiment quite ingrained in our culture, it was also integrated in the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics of Turin in 2006, matched with the slogan “Passion lives here”.

And how to forget the fashion world with the famous Red Valentino, the colour that was so characteristic of the Lombard stylist? And the typical red of the cities of Bologna and Roma?

Last but not least, the Rosso Dolomite – Red Dolomite – the typical glow that illuminates the Dolomites at sunrise and sunset, as if on fire.

Speaking about symbolic meanings, what about names inspired by colours? Here you are a list!

FUNCTIONAL USE OF COLOURS

Colours, along with numbers, can also have a functional use. It came to my mind that, in the sphere of the written words – in journalism and literature – colours have specific meanings that allow you to understand which context or topic you are referring to.

COLOURS IN ITALIAN ART

Finally, a mention to the world of art and specifically to a “genre” that originated in my land, the Veneto.

Venetian painters were known with the nickname of “masters of colour”, as, rather than using an “underdrawing” as artists in Central Italy did, they often preferred to create the desired image directly with the brush, avoiding the artifice of drawing and then colouring. This allowed them to obtain a  more “realistic” subject and to change it during the realization, if they felt like it.

To give you a precise idea, here you are a visual comparison between the Venetian and the Florentine school. The subject is the same, the “Dead Christ”:

Florentine School

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Lamentation over the Dead Christ, detail. By S. Botticelli [public domain]

Venetian School

1024px-Giovanni-Bellini-Pietá_(1465)

The Dead Christ Supported by the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist, detail. By G. Bellini [Public Domain]

The absence of an evident underdrawing and the skilful use of colours by the Venetian artist makes the result much more effective and dramatic, don’t you think?

I bet if they were to be born nowadays, Venetian masters wouldn’t be very happy with the trendy colouring books 😉


And in your country? Have you got a “National colour”? Let me know in a comment if you like and keep following my series of Italian facts on Instagram!

A presto!

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7 thoughts on “Colours in Italy: Use and Cultural References

  1. We have “the black chronicle” in Slovenia too, but not the other two. There is only “the yellow press”.

    Isn’t there a curse against the colour purple in the Italian theatre or something? You wrote about it on your blog, if I’m not mistaken. 😉

    My biggest surprise has been watching the cars in Italy: they are either black or so dark that they seem black, white, any shade of grey, or red if the owner is a bit special. 😀 Where are all the yellow and green cars? 😉

    This must be connected with the fact why amore cringes at the thought of wearing green, or yellow. He says he is not a German tourist. 😀 (Even though friends call him Tedesco.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. fkasara

      What is the yellow press?

      Yep, correct! People in showbiz are the most superstitious in Italy!

      Ah, concerning the cars, it’s often because of a practical reason. White and black cars are the less expensive, if you want a different hue, you have to pay more and also wait more for the delivery. It’s also true that you tend to grow weary of vivid colours on cars, generally. And they are not posh shades, of course 😂👍 Always La bella figura!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d have to say that red is a particular favourite of mine (perhaps second only to black). I carry a red Furla bag for work, I’d love to own a red car (brand agnostic for now!), does this count as a tinge Italian? 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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