Tuscany Artisans – Ceramics

Focusing on Tuscany, and Florence in particular, which has always been a town of excellent workshops, to the point that Riccardo Marasco, a Florentine himself, dedicated a song characterising Florence as an artisan – Firenze bottegaia – the chorus of which goes:

Firenze bottegaia di quando ero bambino e già ne andavo fiero di esser nato fiorentino….
Firenze bottegaia che ora non è più, ti han tradito quelli che ti devono di più………….

Florence bottegaia – from the time I was a child and proud to be born a Fiorentine…
Florence bottegaia who exists no more, they have betrayed you those who owed you more……….

In fact the workshops of Florence are a mere reminder of what they once were, and many of the most beautiful ones have disappeared to make space for large shops which carry ranges from large international manufacturers and designers.

However there are some historical shops left, small, though a great testament to former times, rich in culture and tradition, and which are still today a great strength of the city. Hand-made paper, straw hats, stone handicrafts and gold jewellery to name just a few of products of Florence’s artisans.

But Florence is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire Tuscan territory boasts high quality handcrafted products, and for this reason we would like to introduce you to some of Tuscany’s finest. Tuscany, while being wellknown for the big names of Gucci, Cavalli, Ferragamo and their discount outlets, is most of all a region in which the work of individual craftspeople is still held in high esteem, to the point where the products themselves can be seen in small and large exhibitions, like the Mercantia Festival in Certaldo which is held every June. As well as being a wonderful show of live theatre and music, it is a marvellous opportunity to see the work of the craftspeople in their workshops which are set up for the duration of the festival along the streets of Certaldo. We could talk forever about the sheer variety and uniqueness of the crafts of Tuscany however if there is one craft that demonstrates the capacity to create objects of singular beauty from nothing, it is the art that gives form and colour to the earth – that of ceramics.

Impruneta is one of the most famous locations in Tuscany linked to the production of ceramics. Just south of Florence at the edge of the territory of Chianti, the artisans of Impruneta have worked the clay earth producing characteristic red terracotta since the end of the Middle Ages, supplying Florence with laterizi e orci – containers for olive oil. Even the bricks of Brunelleschi’s cupola come from Impruneta, as do many of the materials in the outstanding architecture of Florence. Still today, Impruneta produces at an artisan and industrial level, terracotta statues for the garden, terracotta tiles, planters, flower pots of every size and shape.

Two other places to mention while we are talking about ceramic art are Sesto Fiorentino for its refined porcelain, and Montelupo for its famous majolica. The ceramic factory of Ginori was founded in 1737 by the Marquis Carlo Ginori, who had a basic kiln built in the villa of his estate Doccia near Sesto Fiorentino, the town that was largely based on agriculture. The furnace transformed the economy of Sesto Fiorentino, and the porcelain of Ginori became famous throughout Europe. After the company was bought by the Richard Group (founded in 1896) expansion continued. The Richard Ginori Museum has collections that span at least 300 years of production from the porcelain and majolica from the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Art Nouveau production of the first decades of the 1900s, and the work designed by Giò Ponti.

Montelupo in the Valdarno originally had a strategic military importance defending against Pisa but gradually became an important market place not least because of its control over river traffic along the Arno. It rapidly became one of the most important manufacturing towns in Tuscany. Production of majolica becan in the 14th Century. Montelupo was favoured by the ease of transport and had its heyday during the Renaissance when it counted among its patrons many nobles of Florence such as the Medici and the Strozzi families.

In the Museum of Archeology and Ceramics of Montelupo, set up in the salons of the Palazzo del Podestà, there are archeological finds from Prehistory to the end of the Middle Ages on display, and examples of locally produced ceramics which have been discovered in the course of excavation in the town. There are well documented accounts of the activity and production of the local workshops from the early Middle Ages to the Modern Age. Each year at the end of June, the International Festival of Ceramics – Festa Internazionale della Ceramica – displays the best of the local products with artistic shows and guided visits to the furnaces. At the Professional School of Ceramic Art – Scuola di formazione professionale per la ceramica artistica – in Montelupo courses are organised annually, and it is possibile to take short courses for a weekend or a week.

The first part of our voyage ends here and in the next newsletter we’ll visit other important places for the handicrafts of Tuscany.

Commenti (3) | March 16, 2010

3 Responses to “Tuscany Artisans – Ceramics”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    July 23rd, 2010 at 23:45

    Does anyone know about Maramma high resilience florentine ceratmic dishes? I am looking for a source to buy them.

  2. chiaraloche Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 10:17

    Hi dear,
    Actually I don’t know a renowned and specific place for buying ceramic, but I suggest you have a look at the following websites, maybe there’s something interesting:

    http://www.fabbricaimpruneta.it/?idtema=1&page=informazioni&action=readall&index=5&idcategoria=26 – IMPRUNETA CERAMICS


    http://www.misterimprese.it/toscana/firenze/montelupo-fiorentino/ceramiche-artistiche.html – MONTELUPO FIORENTINO CERAMICS

    Have a nice shopping :-)

  3. Brian Valenzia Says:
    November 28th, 2010 at 16:55

    Did Riccardo Ginori dinner sets start in Spain. If yes when
    did he start


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