Many areas of Italy are known for their ceramics – Deruta, Sicily, Sorrento, and Tuscany…with Deruta being the most famous. The ceramics of Deruta are prized for their beauty and their quality. I have many ceramics from Deruta in my collection, but recently, I purchased some ceramics from Montelupo Fiorentino in Tuscany. The Tuscan ceramics are beautiful in their own right – with designs a bit more rustic than those of Deruta, but well suited to a Tuscan home. The look is different, but no less attractive.
Montelupo Fiorentino became a center for ceramics back in the Middle Ages when the Florentine Republic took over the area. Its strategic position between Florence, the Apennines, and the Tyrrhenian coast made it possible to acquire the clay, water, and transportation so necessary for ceramic production and distribution during the Middle Ages. But it didn’t reach its peak until the 15th and 16th centuries when the de Medici’s made it their center of ceramic production. At that time, it began exporting around the Mediterranean and gained in popularity for it’s sturdy and beautifully decorated pottery.
Montelupo Fiorentino was hard hit during the plague of the 17th century. Production slowed down considerably due to the lack of labor and the economic recession…and it wasn’t until a resurgence in the 19th century that Montelupo Fiorentino once again became a major center of Italian majolica.
Today, the town has numerous ceramic shops and production is once again rivalling that of it’s Renaissance hey day.