Italy behind closed doors

by Kitty Drake in November 2020
Photography

Sali e Tabacchi celebrates Italy “behind closed doors”. Created by two expats, London-based journalist Elisa Carassai and graphic designer Leonardo Pellegrino, the first issue was a kind of homage to Italian hedonism, from the lavish afterparties at the Venice Mardi Gras, to the unusual freedom of Neopolitan beach culture. With this second issue, though, the theme is ‘Spirituality’, and things have taken a more devotional turn.

Interestingly, Sali e Tabacchi deliberately focuses on Italian spirituality outside of the Catholic church. The cover image comes from a 1959 series, documenting Il Gioco Della Falce (The Scythe Game), a harvest ritual from the Luciana region, in which an old farmer ties a goatskin to his back and is symbolically ‘killed’.

Another arresting story is about Italian bread altars at San Giuseppe festival in Salemi. Disguised under the name of a Christian Saint, San Giuseppe is a saint’s day that aligns perfectly with a crucial point in the harvest calendar, typical of the careful layering of pre-Christian tradition with those imposed by the Catholic church in Italian culture. Look carefully, and in amongst the crucifixes and holy angels in the bread altar you will find pagan iconography: wheat, palm fronds, deer and peacocks.

Below we’ve photographed some of our favourite images from this thoughtful and visually rich issue.

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