The heel of Italy’s boot is not only famous for the best olive oil, delicious cuisine, flavourful wine and the beautiful nature, but also for its ancient handcrafts. Many Apulian cities have a great and long tradition of working with ceramic and pottery.
These handcraft pieces were primarily used for functional purposes, such as for making vases for preserving oil, wine and olives. Nowadays, they are mainly decorative and widely popular on an international level.
One of the most important cities in Apulia for the production of ceramic is Grottaglie, which is located just a few kilometers away from Taranto. It is part of the 28 Italian cities, which have the D.O.C. brand for original Italian ceramic art. The whole foundation, economy and city structure are based on its richness in clayey soil. An entire district in Grottaglie is full of art studios, over 50 ceramic workshops and ateliers. Two important annual exhibitions take place there: the Presepe Exhibition in December and the ceramic exhibition in August. If you miss these two events, there is also a museum of ceramic art open all year round.
What makes the ceramic of Grottaglie particularly famous, are the different phases of the working process. They use the lathe in a so-called greek and saracenic way, for making circular objects. In the next step, each piece gets individually decorated by hand, a process that finishes off by varnishing. The secrets of these handcrafts are passed on through generations and in between families.
Whenever you have a walk in the tiny streets of the historical center of Grottaglie, you will most likely also pass some laboratories, where ceramic is made. At first glance they might seem quite similar but they are actually all different: some of them focus on objects with a modern style, others on traditional style. While others care mainly about the touristic aspect, some even have a very futuristic approach, creating true masterpieces of art. In the end it is all made out of simple clay.
The probably most representative and symbolic object of this ceramic tradition is "lu pumu" (il pumo in italian). Whenever you walk through the historical center of an Apulian town, it is very likely that you spot it on the corner of balcony rails or house entrances. It represents a rosebud, made of ceramic in different sizes and colors. The "pumo" is so popular because it has a powerful meaning: it is a lucky charm for everything new in life whether it's a business, relationship or a new home. Like a rosebud that is about to bloom, it is supposed to bring beauty and success in new life chapters.
Now you cannot just shine with your background knowledge when you come across them, but also bring a meaningful and unique souvenir back home from your trip to Apulia. 😊
Title Picture © Credits to iStock/tupungato
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.