By Claudia Quesito

Together with the unavoidable food, design is one of the Italian icons, known and celebrated all over the world. Italian design refers to everything devised and manufactured in Italy, including interior, fashion, urban, and architectural design. Some design items are universally recognized as made in Italy, but maybe not everyone knows that all the items that follow are 100% Italian.

Let’s start with a piece that you can admire at the MoMA in NYC—or in 99% of Italian households: the Bialetti Moka coffee maker. Invented in 1933 by engineer Alfonso Bialetti, it’s sold today basically unchanged from its original design. Another famous, award-winning coffee maker is the Cupola, from Alessi, designed by Aldo Rossi in 1988. Also from Alessi—and again, exhibited at the MoMA, is the Caffettiera Espresso 9090, designed in Italy in 1979.  

Leaving the kitchen and heading to the office, the legendary Lettera 22 is definitely worth a mention. It’s a portable typewriter that boasts many illustrious users—from Leonard Cohen to Joan Didion—and, needless to say at this point, it is exhibited at the MoMA. 

As for fashion design, Italian designers are basically celebrities and hardly need mentioning, so we’ll mention just one iconic item, the Borsalino—the felt hat used by Al Capone, Federico Fellini, Indiana Jones, and the Blues Brothers, among others —and one color, the rosso Valentino, a particularly bright shade of red only used in some Valentino dresses.

And no list of Italian design would be complete without mentioning a few super famous two- and four-wheeled vehicles. Vespa is probably the most popular scooter, but another super famous motor scooter is Lambretta, initially manufactured in Milano.

The two came to symbolize Italy itself in the 1950s through the 1970s. As for cars, the entire list would be very long, so here are some examples: Lamborghini Miura P400, Ferrari 365 Daytona, Maserati Ghibli—all on the high-end side—and the super popular—and definitely more affordable—Fiat 500, Fiat 600, and Alfa Romeo Giulia GT.

It is hard to find an Italian without precious and somehow melancholic memories associated with one of these cars, which came to embody not only Italian design but the economic growth and the mainstream lifestyle in the decades after WWII.

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