Anghiari, Asciano, Borgo San Lorenzo, Carmignano, Impruneta, Montelupo Fiorentino, Montepulciano, Montopoli in Val d'Arno, Sesto Fiorentino, Trequanda and Vico Pisano. What do these towns have in common? Well, besides the fact that they are all in Tuscany, of course! These are all Ceramic Cities, places that boast an important and unique tradition along with their beautiful landscapes, good food and great history: ceramic production. In this area, the ancient art of molding the earthy material and giving it shape, of enriching an idea with color and decoration, of transforming an intuition into an object, is not just about manufacturing, it’s about cultural tradition.
To help preserve this precious resource, the Tuscan Ceramic Cities are united in an association, Terre di Toscana.
Thanks to coordination between the cities, there is also a special free card "Pass per la Ceramica", which is distributed at museums, shops, some hotels and tourist information offices. Cardholders receive discounts and special offers at museums, exhibition centers and private facilities on the circuit.
Discover Tuscany by following this unusual path: meet the artisans, learn the techniques, and look closely at the kilns!
A charming little town at the summit of a hill that dominates the upper part of the Valtiberina Valley. Documentation of ceramic production in this area dates back to the second half of the 18th century, with local items characterized by a special glaze, which gave the pottery a shiny and uniform black color.
A section of the Battle of Anghiari Museum is dedicated to local ceramic production. An Antiques Fair is held on the second Sunday of every month, and the Handicraft Market of the Valtiberina Toscana happens at the end of April.
In the heart of the Crete Senesi area, Asciano has produced fine majolica earthenware since the 14th century. The prestige of Asciano’s ceramic artists can be gleaned from the protectionist measures taken against them by Siena potters in 1537! Today, some young craftsmen carry on the tradition.
The Abbey of Mont Oliveto has a collection of pharmacy vases made in Asciano between the 17th and the 18th centuries. The local Civic Museum is also worth a visit.
Read more: “From Asciano to Sovicille: a Terracotta tour”
It’s the main town of the Mugello area, the green valley north of Florence. In Borgo San Lorenzo, potters were active from the 16th to the 18th century, thanks to the presence of at least four kilns, which later disappeared without trace. In 1906, however, the “Fornaci di San Lorenzo” was founded.
This new factory started by Galileo and Chino Chini brought about a completely new and original ceramic production, one of the best expressions of Art Decò in Italy, with small everyday objects as well as architectural decorations for public and private buildings.
Villa Pecori Giraldi houses the Chini Factory Museum, documenting the history of the family and its artists; the rooms, with their original decorations, are part of the exhibition.
Carmignano contains almost everything the world loves about Tuscany: Etruscan sites, Romanesque churches, medieval castles, Medici Villas, contemporary art, wine and oil!
And, yes, it also has a flourishing ceramics economy since the end of the 14th century, which developed primarily in the small village of Bacchereto.
Visit the Archaeologial Musuem of Artimino to see examples of “archaic ceramics” and Renaissance ones.
A few kilometers from Florence, this charming little town surrounded by hills with excellent clay, has been at the centre of a thriving terracotta earthenware economy since medieval times, making it the most important “factory” serving Florence’s building expansion, and a centre of oil jar production.
Since then, Impruneta’s kilns have never stopped working and its terracotta is still one of the preferred materials for some of the most famous architects worldwide.
One of the kilns is wholly preserved and is being turned into a Documentation Centre on the terracotta of Impruneta: the Fornace Agresti, at the base of the town.
In Montelupo Fiorentino, kilns started to produce “archaic majolica” at the end of the 13th century. Later on, this was one of the major centres of European production of original ceramics, reaching a peak in quality and quantity during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Despite a long crisis (17th century), the kilns of Montelupo never stopped entirely.
Today there are more than 100 active firms and craftsmen, a Ceramics Museum (made accessible for the visually impaired), the Bitossi Industrial Art Museum and a Ceramic Festival (third week of June).
You can also admire the spectacular installation created by the artist Eugenio Taccini, a true genius who, in 2014, created 15 life-size pottery figures riding bicycles!
In Montepulciano the harmony of the Renaissance architecture blends with the beauty of the typical Tuscan landscape.
The history of the town as a ceramics centre has recently been uncovered through research that has given us a glimpse of the local activities: the kilns have beenbusy over here since the 15th century; the production of pots and terracotta continued throughout the 18th century, and three kilns were still active at the beginning of the 19th century.
While visiting this charming little town, don’t miss the terracotta sculptures on the façade of St. Augustine, attributed to Michelozzo, and the hall dedicated to Luca della Robbia inside the Civic Museum. The Pinacoteca Crociani also houses ceramic items.
Read more: “A day trip to Montepulciano”
The town of Montopoli, overlooking the Arno river plain, was protected by city walls during the Middle Ages. The walls were destroyed by the German Army during the Second World War and today only the Arc of Castruccio and the Tower of San Matteo are still standing.
The ceramic tradition of the town is based on brick production, from which local buildings have been constructed since Medieval times. Then came the production of household ceramics: pans, tubs, archaic majolica, and glazed ceramics were made from the 12th to the 18th centuries. In 1919, Dante Milani decided to focus his brick kiln’s production on artistic terracotta products and his company soon achieved international success.
Milani’s activity is well documented in the new Civic Museum.
Sesto Fiorentino – just 6 km away from Florence – became part of the history of European ceramics in 1737, when Marquis Carlo Ginori founded the celebrated porcelain factory on his Doccia estate. In 1896 the factory became the Richard-Ginori Ceramic Company (at the time it employed about 1500 people in the Doccia factory alone!). In 1949 the factory moved to the current one in Sesto.
To understand the breadth and richness of this production, visit the Doccia Museum, built by Richard-Ginori in 1965, and the churches of San Romolo in Colonnata and Santa Maria and San Jacopo in Querceto, to see their ceramic altars.
Trequanda is a real off-the-beaten-path destination! 22 inhabitants per square kilometer, an area with woods, grazing land and crops, and three fortified villages (Trequanda, the main one, Castelmuzio and Castello di Petroio) that still preserve their Medieval allure.
The local factories here used to supply jars and tubs to the olive-growing centres of Siena and Valdichiana.
Just outside the fortified walls of Castello di Petroio is one of the oldest still-active terracotta factories.
The history of the local terracotta economy is illustrated in the Petroio Terracotta Museum, housed in a 12th century building.
This small town will surprise you with its almost wholly preserved medieval towers, palaces, old walls, churches and, above all, the Rocca designed by Brunelleschi!
The local ceramic production probably began during the Middle Ages. In 1587 there were 27 firms, operating mainly in the area of San Giovanni alla Vena, making use of the clay deposits in the Arno river. They focused mostly on production of kitchen pots and pans. After a lengthy crisis – two-centuries long – the 19th century was a time of recovery, thanks to the development of new products and new processes.
This article was originally written by Leila Firusbakht.