The Italian relationship with feet seems contradictory to me. On one hand, they revere feet, encasing them in expensive and beautifully hand-crafted leather shoes. It is rare to see dirty, run-down or shoddy shoes on the pins of an Italian. If you come across bad shoes, you have undoubtedly spotted a tourist such as myself.
On the other hand, Italians link feet with dirt, considering them vectors for disease. It is unthinkable—indeed disgusting—to wear bare feet inside an Italian abode.This vile act would put the bare footed person at risk but more importantly would spread filth throughout the premisses.
The following photo essay was produced by participants in the University of Alberta’s School in Cortona, Italy, during May 2015. I was teaching “Bodies, Sex, and Death in Early Modern Italy,” discussing historically and culturally specific conceptions of embodiment, cleanliness, and death, among other things. Some of the lovely students in the course agreed to take pictures of interesting or typical Italian shoes/feet during their travels. The last time I taught in Cortona, we published a group post called “Italian Pants.” Be sure to check that one out as well.