If you have never heard of Grottaglie pottery, raise your hand. To find this small Apulian town, cradle of ceramics processing, we need to turn our eyes upwards. Right up there, among the hills of the Murgia that stretch from Matera to Taranto, lies the suggestive Grottaglie.
The beauties of Grottaglie
It would be simplistic to talk only about ceramics in front of so much beauty: Grottaglie offers sensational landscapes. On the side of Monte Fellone, on top of which the city is born, rises the Fullonese ravine. It is a sort of all-Italian canyon, about a kilometer long and 40 meters deep. Inside it has a series of caves hollowed in the rock, where the first settlements developed as early as the Iron Age.
Here it is possible to immerse yourself in the smells of a rich vegetation composed of thyme, mallow and thistles. In the ravine it is also possible to visit an ancient rock church of the fifth century, dedicated to the apostles Peter and Paul. Near the ceramics district it is possible to admire the Episcopio castle dating back to the 14th century. Over the years it was enlarged and remodeled, and is characterized by a particular Baroque style facade. Today it is the center of the cultural activities of Grottaglie: for example, among its walls, the famous ceramics exhibition and the crib exhibition are staged.
The Grottaglie ceramic: art without boundaries
Going up the slope of the hill, you cannot help but notice the neighborhood of the shops, the center of local craftsmanship. The shops are one with the territory: almost all take place in hypogeum environments, or spaces made from natural cavities. These have been adapted to contain lathes, and everything needed to create the famous Grottaglie ceramics.
The town’s treasure in the province of Taranto is represented precisely by its clay-rich soil. This mineral is the primary source for creating ceramic artifacts. The artisans of Grottaglie handed down from generation to generation a centuries-long tradition: the first artifacts date back to the seventeenth century. Although the ceramic tradition concerns the whole of Puglia, Grottaglie occupies an important place: it is the only area of the region to be protected by the D.O.C. It has also been included in the list of 28 cities of Italian ceramics.
Among the Grottaglie ceramics the famous “whites” stand out. They consist of finely decorated objects with a white enamel, which gives a touch of sublime perfection and elegance. And how to forget the classic “pumo“? It is the symbol of the Apulian pottery, and in its creation the artisans indulge themselves.
Its typical shape which reminds us of a “pome” is subject to the artist’s imagination. Everyone decorates it according to their own style and their own vision of art. The potters of Grottaglie, in keeping with tradition, are also involved in the manufacture of rustic and commonly used products. A demonstration of this are the enormous capasoni, the amphorae intended to contain wine and oil, two other symbols of the local Apulian productions. The Grottaglie ceramics cross the borders of Puglia: they are objects appreciated all over Italy, and also abroad, where they hold the flag of “made in Italy” high.