History and diffusion of the most famous ceramics in Italy
Vietri sul Mare, the last town on the Amalfi Coast, is renowned for its ceramics, whose lucky destiny seems to have begun in the fifth century BC, under the Etruscan domination. However, the real success of this art has been marked during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when the ceramics became commercial products of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi and started to circulate in the Mediterranean area thanks to the strategic position on the sea that promoted the trade on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Art of the Ceramics will continue over the centuries and will get more value and all the production techniques will be refined more and more. In fact, in the eighteenth century, the art of the “majolica riggiola” spreads in the whole area of the Gulf of Naples, which in Neapolitan means exactly “decorated tile”.
An essential turning point arrived in the historical period between the two world wars: between the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century, many German Jews took refuge on the Amalfi Coast to escape racial persecution, (and decided to stay there even after the end of the war for the mild climate) and offered the inhabitants their artistic skills in exchange for a place to stay. They were very skilled in chemistry and entered in the art of making ceramics with the creation of colours classified as “unrepeatable”, such as the characteristic “yellow of Vietri”. Thank to these new motivations, international and stylistically unique products were born: the influences of Jewish culture and the typical characteristics of Italian ceramics joined, using a more modern mentality, which was able to keep intact the artisan character of these products.
The processing of the ceramics
Long and complex process but amazing results
To realize the ceramics, the essential material is the clay, of which the soil of the Amalfi Coast is full.
This material is worked using the lathe and then modelled to give the shape and the structure to the final object. After that, it is fired in the oven at extremely high temperatures and then a first glazing is realized. For dishes and tiles needs to be done also a white bath. After drying, the decoration is realized by hand. Then, a second firing is necessary to let the colours be brighter and to fix the decoration.
The most important characteristic of these products is that no one is like another one, each piece is absolutely unique and inimitable, and they are now considered the masterpieces of the local artistic production.
Vietri Ceramics today, between tradition and innovation
The workshops where those are realized and where to find them.
These pretty artifacts adorn plates, trays, vases and other household items, but also decorate the alleys, the streets and the houses of the villages overlooking the sea, creating a lively and colourful atmosphere. The production today is still very active and continues to attract tourists and collectors from all over the world. Walking through the streets of Vietri, it is possible to find many craft workshops that carry on the centuries-old family traditions.
Moreover, in the last decades, are grown many companies that, guaranteeing respect for tradition and using original techniques, can produce on a large scale, innovative types as required by modern design, in particular in the construction sector. Choosing Vietri ceramics to furnish means that you will bring a bit of Mediterranean air in your house with the typical bright colors: blue, green, yellow and red. They are mainly used to cover kitchens, bathrooms, garden tables, but also plates, signs and house numbers.
Among the workshops where you can find handmade ceramics, there is La Ceramica Solimene, with a long and productive family tradition in Vietri and Ceramica Pinto, active since the 10s of the twentieth century and immediately specialized in exports.
Other little curiosities on Vietri Ceramis
To learn more about the world of Vietri ceramics, we recommend an educational stop at the Vietri Ceramics Museum, inaugurated in 1981 to celebrate and protect this local artistic heritage.
The Museum is located in the rooms of the beautiful Villa Guariglia in Raito di Vietri, a very elegant historic residence. Here there are many ancient religious ceramics, pottery and also some examples of ceramic production of the “German period”.
We also would like to mention the idea promoted by some restaurateurs in the area. The famous “Piatto del Buon Ricordo” – literally “The Plate of the good memory”: while eating at the restaurant some of the dishes are served in hand-decorated plates that can then be taken home as a souvenir. It is an intelligent system that allows you to incentivize artisanal production and, at the same time, to export ceramics.
In 1997 Vietri was declared as World Heritage Site by Unesco for the richness of its landscapes and for its artistic and cultural heritage, together with the Amalfi Coast.
In December, at Villa Guarigilia is hosted the annual “Festa dei Boccali”, an artistic and voluntary event where 100 Vietri potters exhibit their handicraft production. In this occasion are selected 10 works that remain in the permanent collection and the rest is donated to charity.
The Villa was also the location of the famous fiction “Capri”, shot from 2006 to 2010 and made it known to the public as Villa Isabella.