Italy has the distinct honor of being known as the place to shop for quality hand-painted ceramics. Although you can find ceramic pieces for sale in almost all areas of Italy, there is nothing like shopping in the cities where they are made. In Italy, the top ceramic-producing cities are the small towns in the hills of Umbria, the Amalfi coast, and the countryside of Sicily. Shopping for hand-painted ceramics during my travels to Italy was always a top priority, so I planned my itineraries to include Deruta, Orvieto, Amalfi, and Caltagirone.
Deruta is a hill town in Umbria, and its name is practically synonymous with ceramics. There is not much else in this town besides ceramics shops, and Deruta exports its products all over the world. I took a bus ride there early one morning to purchase some hand-painted ceramics at a good price, and I was also interested in seeing the process firsthand. I was not disappointed on either of these goals.
The owner of one of the ceramics shops kindly showed me all around, and it didn't take long for me to discover a large biscotti jar that I wanted. It was so colorful with designs of lemons, sunflowers, grapes, and artichokes in shades of blues, yellows, greens, and red. We negotiated a great price -- and an even better one since I paid cash -- and I walked away with a smile on my face.
I had to walk to the lower end of the city, down the hill to the more industrial area, and I found the fabbrica, or the place where the actual ceramics were made. An elderly woman humored me and took the time to delicately paint a design onto the piece of pottery. I had come to the right place.
On another excursion, I visited Orvieto, another hilltop town in Umbria. Famous for its ceramics, this town had attractions other than ceramics, and I enjoyed seeing the Duomo and the large nearby piazza. I had come here, though, to buy some more ceramics, and after perusing about 10 shops, I went back to the original one and purchased a beautiful set of bowls, plus a serving bowl and a few other pieces. Luckily for me, shipping was included in the price. Not actually inexpensive, these hand-painted ceramics are still much cheaper in Italy than they would be if you tried ordering them. Every time I use them, I am transported back to beautiful Orvieto.
The Amalfi coast sells ceramics in almost every shop in every town along the coast. I bought my first pieces in Sorrento and have since collected them in Positano, Amalfi, Maiori, and Vietri-sul-Mar. Even though they are made in Vietri-sul-Mar, the prices in these other towns are not a lot higher, although Positano's prices are the highest, since it is the famous resort town.
In Sicily, the "City of Ceramics" is Caltagirone, a city of about 40,000 people. Walking through the city, ceramics are everywhere -- on railings, embedded into walls, on signs, and, of course, in the shops. There are several hundred ceramics shops here, and you could spend all day browsing the selection. I was in my glory here and could have stayed a week.
Caltagirone also has a famous landmark, La Scalinetta, which is a series of 142 stairs. What is so unique is that on each riser are hand-painted ceramic majolica tiles, none of which are the same. In shades of blues, greens, and yellows, each tile has a different design. It is an awesome sight to see and well worth a trip to Sicily.
Shopping for ceramics in Italy is fun and also rewarding. The prices are fair, and the products are quality. After several trips to Italy, I have a nice collection of Italian ceramics, but when I go back, I probably won't be able to resist just one more piece.
- Hobbies & Personal Activities
- Amalfi coast