Italian tiles to love

Francesca Niccacci is an Italian ceramic painter from Deruta, winner of International prizes.

She is a great interpreter of historical and mythological scenes, featured in Museums and Churches around the world. Yet she loves the geometric designs that are so much “Deruta”. Francesca plays with them, taking them to a personal next step and applying them to wall plates and tiles.

We particularly like her tiles, so intricate and rich. She paints them in different designs and patterns, that are often a great inspiration for interior designers to create unique backsplashes or tiled surfaces.

By Tiziana ManzettiHand Painted Italian Tile 04 by Francesca Niccacci


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Collecting Italian majolica floor tiles

stanza-al-genio-6This story is about love and dedication, about beauty and craftsmanship, about history and heritage.

Pio Mellina is a man who turned his passion for antique Italian tiles into a dream and a few years ago the dream came true. He has created “Le Stanze al Genio”, a Museum in Palermo where visitors can explore his huge collection and marvel at the variety of designs, styles and colors. A display of Italic creative genius! Pio has been collecting antique Italian tiles since he was a child. Instead of joining his friend for a soccer match, he searched the little street markets in the old city. Tiles were cheap, as people did not know what to do with them. Sometimes they were just the waste of the renovation of old houses. Pio purchased them and stored them in his parent’s basement.

When the basement was packed with tiles and Pio could no longer locate what he was looking for, he started to organize them and to collect information as well. His studies changed his collecting habits: he learnt to appraise the tiles he found and purchased some very rare pieces. Pio’s wish to have a place of his own where the tiles could be displayed and appreciated by anyone grew over time, just like his collection. In 1998 he bought a flat in an ancient downtown building. He started the renovation with a twofold purpose: it had to be his home as well as the place where all his tiles could be beautifully displayed. In 2008 Pio Mellina’s house and museum was ready and opened to the public.

stanza-al-genio-3Le Stanze al Genio has immediately received national and international recognition. It hosts more than 2500 tiles, probably the largest collection in the world. Four more rooms will be soon opened to accommodate a total of 4000 tiles. Impressive, isn’t it?

The habit of covering the floor with hand painted  tiles was formed in the 1500-1600 in the southern regions of Italy, especially Palermo and Napoli. That’s when the most notable palaces were built.

The design of the tiles was decided by the architect of the building or by the owner. Sometimes the craftsmen were free to show their genius, asked only to match the details of the frescos in the rooms.

Created by Pio Mellina with the help of some friends, the Museum is completely self-funded. A miracle of hard work and dedication. Do not miss it on your next trip to Palermo! stanza-al-genio-2

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100+ Deruta ceramic statuettes

We are not huge fans of statuettes, but the exhibition that is now on in Deruta ceramic museum is really very special. It’s about a collection of 100+ small ceramic sculptures made in Deruta between 1930 and 1950 for Perugina, THE Italian chocolate factory. Bacio PeruginaThey were sold in special packs with chocolates, Easter eggs (our Easter eggs are pretty big) and the timeless  Baci – don’t tell us you know nothing about Baci …
This donkey statuette was our favorite!

By Tiziana Manzetti

Deruta ceramic donkey statuette

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My visit to the Five Lands with an eye on ceramics

The tradition of pottery making is very strong in Liguria, dating back to the Middle Ages and evolved into Modern Art in the last century.
Albissola is probably the most popular city in this respect, but definitely not the only one. Everywhere you go, you can find the sign of people’s love for this art. Here you can see the statues decorating the front of the Oratorio di Sant’Andrea in Monterosso, a tiny church on the beach that would go unnoticed if it were not for these unique and precious ceramic works.
The key events in the life of the Saint Andrew and Saint Dominic are narrated by ceramic tiles that are combined to form a statue of the Saints. A lovely spot in an otherwise very “touristy” place.
By Tiziana Manzetti

Saint Dominic ceramic statue. Oratorio Sant'Adrea in Monterosso, Five LandsSaint Andrew ceramic statue. Oratorio Sant'Adrea in Monterosso, Five Lands

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Candle holders all around!

Candle holders and candlesticks are the perfect accessory to create the right atmosphere in your home. They add style to your decoration, offer the perfect light for your family parties, create coziness in an instant and their flickering light is just magic in your Summer evenings outdoor.
We love handmade ceramic candle holders, with their strong personality and authentic artistry!

By Tiziana Manzetti

ND Dolfi candle holder Continue reading

Have you ever heard of the pumi?

Ceramic pumi from GrottaglieA pumo is popular symbol of good luck in Grottaglie and more in general in the region of Puglia. Every family celebration and important event is sanctified by the gift of a ceramic pumo, rigorously handmade.

Its name, from the local dialect “Pumo de’ fiure”, means flower bud and it derives from the Latin “pomum” from Pomona, thefrom Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruitful abundance. The bud is round, with a slightly pointed end, and it rests on acanthus leaves, symbols of immortality or, if you will, resurrection.

As you can see the references to good luck are endless, explaining the popularity of the pumi: there is always a good reason to purchase a pumo or give it as a gift to wish someone a good start in a new activity. Typically, a new family will not move its first steps in the community without its brand new pumi, installed at every corner of every balcony of the new nest.

Wandering in the steep streets of Grottaglie and the neighboring villages, you’ll find yourself unable to keep your eyes at ground level: the show is on the first and second floors, where the whitish buildings boast their beautiful balconies with colorful pumi’s on each corner. You will see majestic palaces, once owned by noble families, decorated with elaborate pumi, modest houses taking pride on their simple ceramic buds, each having found its distinctive symbol of prosperity, fertility and abundance.

Pumi are made by hand by Grottaglie potters in a large variety of styles and sizes: you’ll find simple, solid colored traditional pumi as well as colorful, fancy ones. Follow your taste and bring one home, they are beautiful interior decoration accents, indoor and outdoor and … we all need good luck, don’t we?
By Tiziana Manzetti

Ceramic pumi from Grottaglie Continue reading

How is sgraffito pottery made?

Sgraffito, in English “to scratch”, is a pottery decorating technique first used in Egypt and the Middle East in the 7th century to have pottery look like precious metals. Around the 10th century it crossed the Mediterranean, influencing Italian and Spanish potters.

Sgraffito pottery: Francesco Fasano at work

A layer of colored liquid clay, called engobe, is applied on a leather hard pottery piece. When dry the potter decorates the piece, scratching the superficial layer to form a design and revealing the clay color underneath. At this point the piece can be kiln fired for the first time and, if necessary, colored glazes can be applied before a second firing.

In the picture we see Francesco Fasano at work in his studio. Thanks for the picture, Francesco.

By Tiziana Manzetti


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Introducing the Italian ceramics by Francesco Fasano

Fasano centerpiece bowlIn a city like Grottaglie, where pottery making is one of the main resources, Francesco Fasano’s ceramics stand out for their unusual designs, sophisticated elegance and technical superiority.

Francesco’s ancestors established in Grottaglie in the 17th century and his family has been in the ceramic business for generations. He grew up in his father’s Cosimo ceramic studio and the passion for pottery was enhanced by his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, where he learnt to use different methods and was very much influenced by the patterns and decorative motifs of the Eastern cultures.

As a matter of fact Francesco’s pottery and dinnerware are a harmonious blend of styles, so unique that his pieces cannot be mistaken for anybody else’s. His favorite production method is  known as “sgraffito” – in English “scratched”.  He applies a layer of engobe or liquid clay on a leather hard pottery piece. When dry he  scratches the layer to form a design and reveal the clay color underneath. After the first kiln firing he applies glassy, intensely colored glazes, one by one, firing the pottery up to 3 times.

The result is just amazing: a real treat for Italian pottery lovers.
By Tiziana Manzetti

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Essential kitchen knives

Essential kitchen knives A set of quality kitchen knives is what you need for a good start in serious home cooking. Having made this fundamental point, the next question is:  which knives should be included in the essential kitchen knives set?

 Chef's knife - handcrafted by Berti of ItalyA chef’s knife is a must-have in the kitchen: it cuts, minces, slices, dices, and chops. You’ll spend a great deal of time together, you and your chef’s knife, so take your time to select  the chef’s knife that you feel is right for you and be prepared to drop a pretty penny on it. One thing you should not absolutely compromise on is the quality of the stainless steel: it must be premium quality, high carbon steel.

Paring knife - handcrafted by Berti of ItalyA paring knife is good for precision jobs, like peeling, coring and larding. It’s the ideal partner of the chef’s knife and its opposite in many ways:  a paring knife is small, light, with a thin blade that usually tapers to a point. You may even want to purchase two of them, one with a straight edge, and one with a serrated edge.

Bread knife - handcrafted by Berti of ItalyNo other knife is able to slice perfectly through a freshly made croissant or a crunchy loaf of bread without smashing them into crumbles. It does an excellent job with ripe tomatoes and anything that has a hard shell with a soft inside. A good bread knife lasts a lifetime, as a serrated blade maintains a sharp edge for many years.

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