The word on the street

New York graphic designer and collector of local typography Molly Woodward has almost a whole page dedicated to the signage of Florence’s main railway station, Santa Maria Novella, alone.  I mean, how fantastic is that? I stumbled her amazingly beautiful Vernacular Typology project today over at swissmiss and absolutely get what’s been driving her to record what she calls a ‘vanishing art’ for 10 years already.

In Italy street signs are like an extension of the language.  At first it sounds strange, you’ve got lots of questions, you don’t quite take everything in all the time. Then one day it’s familiar and you miss the richness it brings when you’re not there.  Molly’s website and blog are like a walk down memory lane for whoever might be missing the streets of Florence and Rome at close range. You can literally smell the coffee.

Standing very much in Molly’s shadow, my own photos of street signs in Italy are ones I’ve taken over a few trips.  But I don’t think I quite understood what I was looking at, what the attraction is, until now.


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  1. Helen said:

    Great post Janine! I love the shop signage in Italy too and have my own little collection of photos. I will definitely check out Molly’s website…

    • You would love it Helen. She also covers France of course. I would love to see those photos of yours….Lovely to hear from you. Jx

  2. jann said:

    Janine, these old storefronts and signs are sooooo lovely! Every time I see one of these beauties torn out and replaced with something modern in Sicily, my heart constricts. Taormina is a good example of where they’re disappearing…(:

    • O dear Jann…I remember Taormina…what a shame!!!! I would be feeling the same as you. Sometimes it takes the eye of an outsider to really see the value in these things – hopefully before it’s all too late. It’s the dilemma of the south really. Take care. Jx

  3. I recognise a couple of places in Lucca. I will be back there in a couple of weeks – can’t wait!

    • Fabulous! Have a wonderful return to Italy Debra… e salutami Lucca!

  4. Your photos make me feel like I’m there. Were any of them in Lucca?

    • Exactly! I expected you might spy these and recognise your beloved Lucca. Most of the shots are Lucca in fact – the first 8 – all shot on the one day. Such a beautiful place. I would love to get to know it better. Jx

  5. Aren’t they wonderful, I love the very faded ones that have become part of the walls. Simply elegant, I’m off to check the blog you mentioned. Funnily enough my brother was a printer for some years and worked as a typesetter. ciao lisa

    • Thanks Lisa. I think those faded, seeped into the wall ones are like ghosts. I love them too! Your brother would Love Molly’s site and blog then! Jx

  6. Janine this is a fabulous project just checked it out and yes it does transport you straight to Florence…… many recognizable signs and ones I have taken as you……..stunning!
    Carla x

    • Thanks for dropping by Carla. Always lovely to hear form you. Yes I imagine Molly’s project would have special appeal for you on a couple of levels. So glad you liked it!! Jx

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