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Friday, July 15, 2011

Venetian gentlemen, once preferred them blondes

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...Image via Wikipedia
Author: Albapp

It is well known that beauty standards change. Marilyn Monroe's admired feminine curves have been replaced by the androgynous and thin Agyness Deyn and the big curly hairstyles of the 80's are now a distant (and often embarrassing) memory for women who now sport sleek straight hair like walls.
Italy has seen its perception of beauty change with the times too, while today's most desired Italian women are brunettes or black-haired with tanned skin and clear Latina traits, in the years of the Serenissima Republic, women worked hard on keeping their pale skin white as milk and their blond hair as rich as gold, both symbols of the high class delicate and prosperous women that attended the feasts, parties and events organized by the wealthy inhabitants of the city.
Women in ancient Rome started this tradition by brightening up their hair with a soap made of animal fat and birch ashes or with a mixture of chamomile flowers and the yellow of an egg.

During the Renaissance the ruling trend was once again blond women as shown in the works of art of artists like Botticelli and Tiziano, where immaculate white skin and golden hair were the attributes of every goddess (specially Venus), lady and beautiful commoner.
To brighten up their often dark hair, venetian women made use of the well-known altane. These terraces on the top of Venice's houses that today marvel the tourists staying at every hotel in Venice were once true solariums used to soak the sun rays. To this end, women covered their shoulders and skin to preserve their ivory skin and used a hat called Solana, which had a whole on the top from where the hair came out, wet with a mixture called youth water. Many recipes have been found describing this concoction but they all have some ingredients in common like lupine flowers, honey oil, eggs, saltpeter, saffron, barley straw and liquorice peel. The mixture had to be applied twice for a highlight effect and had to be warmed up in the fire before applying and leaving to dry on the sun.
The altane that served this use were all around, and could be found in other Italian cities like Genova. Today, many have been dismantled for being considered as dangerous and those that are still up (hundreds of them according to estimates) are the preferred choice for tourists and people from the city of Venice to see he fireworks of New Year's Eve, as well as the light show that takes place on the third Sunday of the month of July, in the celebration known as Il Redentore, the Redeemer.
Many apartments and luxury houses still have functional altane that are used to dry freshly washed clothes or, more often, to eat in good company, have a drink or read a good book. Certainly, there are things that will never change, and so it is pretty often that tourists can see in the summer Venetian women leaving the narrow and humid streets of the city underneath them and enjoying their own little sunny paradise.
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About the Author

This article was written by Alba Lorente, with support from hotel in venice. For any information please visit accomodation in venice, or visit hotel in venice italy.
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