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What kind of ceramics is Puglia famous for?
Grottaglie Puglia - Photo: Adcalian

What kind of ceramics is Puglia famous for?

Ceramics are hard and heat-resistant materials shaped by heating non-metallic solids (such as clay) to very high temperatures.

Ceramic making has long been a cultural tradition in Italy. In Magna Graecia, the Greeks discovered that the fertile coastal land surrounding Puglia and neighbouring regions was perfect for clay extraction.

The clay would then be used in the first examples of Puglian earthenware. The Greeks also experimented with stoneware and porcelain, naming the process κεραμικός (keramikos), later to be ‘ceramics’. But which ceramics came out this rich part of Puglian history?

Schizzato bowls, or splatter ware, are a huge part of Puglia’s cultural history. This style is distinctive, formed of beige terracotta bowls with a splattered paint design splashed all over. These ceramic was traditionally used for food preparation or washing. Once a very popular design, it has in recent been years become scarce and highly sought-after.

Capasoni is another distinctive part of the history of Puglian ceramics. These glazed terracotta jugs with twin lateral handles were used to store wine or olive oil. A truly original capasoni will trade for good money in the modern day, often thousands of pounds.

One of the most-recognised ceramic types is Maiolica, still popular in Spain, England and beyond. Maiolica can be traced back to Laterza, Puglia from the late 15th-century. As more countries embraced the style, the appearance of this ceramic changed. However, Puglian pottery has the same appearance of tin-glazed opaque white glazed pottery brush-painted in enamel. This is seen in serving dishes, wine carafes and vases.

Although, it’s impossible to reference Puglian ceramics without mentioning the places that place the centuries-old practice on the map. Grottaglie, in Taranto,is widely known as citta della ceramica, Italy’s ‘city of ceramics’. For centuries, it has been known for its ceramic production since The Middle Ages saw a pottery boom in the town.

One of the most popular exports of Grottaglie is Pumi di Grottaglie, an intriguing ceramic design resembling a bud surrounded by acanthus leaves. These were tradiitionally given as gifts to place at the entrance of homes in order to drive away bad luck.

Another town renowned for ceramic production is Cutrofiano, whose name derives from the word cutrubbi, meaning clay pots. The town is home to the Museo della Ceramica di Cutrofiano, established in 1985 to preserve local terracotta dating from Neolithic times. Any visitors can walk around the Quartier dell Ceramiche area and watch artisans craft these magnificent ceramics.

There is a nice art gallery in the Palazzo de Felice, and a museum dedicated to the town's most important industry, ceramics, located in the Castello Episcopio.

Today, many family companies, such as The Benegiamo family from Cutrofiano, Lecce work to keep the tradition of ceramics alive. This ensures Puglian’s incredible pottery history remains.