Grottaglie A Ceramics Town – My Addresses
Grottaglie from the terrace of Mimmo Vestita Ceramics
All photos Copyright Carla Coulson
Imagine a town that has survived for hundreds of years on making beautiful hand-made ceramics. Add a twist of Southern Italian charm, workshops dug into soft stone to form grottos (grottaglie – that’s where the name comes from) and hundreds of artisans turning clay into pots, jugs, plates, cups, saucers, statues and other works of art – then you would have Grottaglie.
Ceramics La Grotta Ceramiche Copyright Carla Coulson
I discovered Grottaglie a couple of summers ago when Francesco and I were at the beach and it became too crowded so we decided to head inland for lunch (no Italian in their right mind would do this in August) but this is one of our tricks to finding something magical and real.
Ceramics La Grotta Ceramiche Copyright Carla Coulson
And that is exactly what happened. We found the magical Grottaglie.. I could hardly wait to finish lunch to start snooping around the hundreds of ceramic workshops.
Hand turned vases at Fratelli Ciro e Grazio Monteforte
And we didn’t walk away empty handed…
Hand turned pots La Grotta Ceramiche Copyright Carla Coulson
So when I started planning the Caravan Travel Photography Workshop I started to think of all the things I loved about Puglia and Grottaglie sprang to mind.
Carmelo takes a break at Mimmo Vestita Ceramics
I decided to include the things I would do if I was to shoot a story on a region, include the things that I love, that visually excite me and I knew would make for interesting pics.
Collection of antique water jugs Mimmo Vestita Ceramics
So back I went to Grottaglie and with the help of Francesca Frisa we toured many beautiful workshops and met many great artisans.
hand painted plates in the workshop of Giuseppe Patronelli
Grottaglie has been inhabited since the Paleolithic age and is just up the rode from one of the first Greek settlements in Italy, Taranto.
Wash basin Mimmo Vestita Ceramics
The local stone is called tufo In Italian and is soft enough to be able to dig into. Since Medieval times there have been caves dug around what is now the castle and slowly they were taken over and used as ceramic workshops.
Seconds on the terrace Mimmo Vestita Ceramics
Many finds around Grottaglie date back to the Classical age and the Museo Delle Ceramiche in Grottaglie has the whole story!
Mimmo Vestita painting at Mimmo Vestita Ceramics
But on any given day you can turn up in Grottaglie and walk the area known as the Quartier dell Ceramiche and go from one workshop to the next and see artisans turning clay, painting, dipping statues in white and creating every imaginable statue possible.
Paints and brushes at Giuseppe Patronelli
Ceramiche Domenico Caretta di Pietro Caretta
Workshop of Giuseppe Patronelli
Antonio La of La Grotta Ceramiche Copyright Carla Coulson
Exterior La Grotta Ceramiche Copyright Carla Coulson
Fountain Casa Vestita
Whilst walking from workshop to workshop with Francesca she told me about Mimmo Vestita who had an incredible Mediterranean garden right in the middle of town and who recently whilst renovating the garden had discovered the floor of a Roman Villa and a byzantine crypt.
Antique Mediterranean garden Casa Vestita
I had co-incidently seen his garden and crypt in the beautiful magazine Cote Sud and begged to have a look.
Ancient wine pots in the Mediterranean garden of Casa Vestita
It was a garden like I had never seen before. So beautiful in it’s simplicity and it’s devotion to the Mediterranean climate, plants and his collection of over 4000 pieces of ceramic.
Mimmo Vestita in his splendid Mediterranean garden Casa Vestita
Mimmo generously opened his garden to the ‘Caravaners’ and kindly showed us the floor of the Roman Villa his renovator found whilst restoring the garden.
Byzantine fresco in the crypt at Casa Vestita
He also lead us down in to the exquisite Byzantine crypt that had been closed for over 400 years.
Part of the byzantine crypt at Casa Vestita
Whilst restoring another part of the garden and pulling away broken debris and trees the gardener found a carved column. They called in the archaeological society and together they went on a magical mystery tour and found a true treasure the underground crypt.
Grottaglie’s Mediterranean garden in front of the castle entrance.
If you are in Puglia don’t miss a visit to beautiful Grottaglie. She’s real, she’s artistic, she hasn’t been trussed up for the tourists and there are many wonderful photos to be had.
A giant vase inside the Ceramics Museo della Ceramiche Grottaglie
The fabulous Ceramics Museum has a collection of ceramics from the beginning of time, it’s a journey through history and habits, of simplicity, decoration and form and…. it’s free.
A view of the castle from Mimmo Vestita’s terrace
All photos Copyright Carla Coulson
A giant round of applause to the all the artisans who gave their time and talent to us, who allowed us into their bottega’s to see how they work, create and maintain an ancient tradition. True southern hospitality at it’s most generous. I look forward to showing the participants work soon.
By the way, try leaving empty handed!
Via Crispi, 63
This is a private Mediterranean garden and the best one I have seen to date. Mimmo Vestita, the owner has a ceramics workshop up the road and not long ago unearthed a Byzantine Crypt underneath his garden and the floor of a Roman Villa. He opens the garden to the public for a small fee in August from 6pm to 10pm and regularly has exhibitions of some of his 4000 pieces of antique ceramics. DON’T MISS IT!! Follow on Facebook here.
via Santa Sofia
Mimmo’s bottega is up a little set of stairs and removed from the street but worth sourcing out. He sells beautiful objects for the home, vases and water jugs.
via Papa Leone XIII, 9
Antonio La Grotta comes from a long line of ceramists and still hand paints beautiful traditional design in all forms.
via Crispi, 23
Specialises in hand painted plates and pure white dinner services (I bought one)
Fratelli Ciro e Grazio Monteforte
via Salita Camini, 1
Beautiful Maolica pieces with colourful traditional designs
via Santa Sofia, 11
Heavenly white statues dipped in white
Pro Loco Grottaglie
This is the local tourist office and one of the most helpful in Italy. This should be your first stop when you arrive in Grottaglie to gather information on what you are looking for and where to eat!
You can follow the fabulous Casa Vestita here
THANKS GROTTAGLIE, WE LOVE YOU!
“Each has his own happiness in his hands, as the artist handles the rude clay he seeks to reshape it into a figure; yet is is the same with this art as with all others: only the capacity for it is innate; art itself must be learned and painstaking”. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
MA CHE COSA BELLA!!
You just made my MORNING!
HI Contessa, you would love Mimmo’s garden.. So you!! x
I AM BACK AGAIN because you are on another BLOG TODAY!
I cruised through knowing this was all so familiar but SO ENJOYED the SECOND GO AROUND!
TO BE THERE NOW would be the TOPPING on the CAKE!
Hope you and il marito are doing well!
Grazie per le meravigliose foto.
Spero che ritornate presto a salutarci!
Siete stati unici!
Con piacere.. adoro Grottaglie.. xx
Greetings from Grottaglie 🙂
thanks.. lovely to meet you in Grottaglie. x
My Monday inspiration! Your pics always inspire me…these are beautiful. What program do you use for editing…would you make a recommendation? I already use lightroom 5?
HI Kathy, thanks for your kind words, i use Lightroom and Photoshop.. These pics were edited in Lightroom and then finished in Photoshop.. x
Hi Carla, you are a true artist. I can feel your emotions in your pictures and writing. That’s the kind of story I adore. Thank you for letting us know about these artists and this place in Puglia. I’ve been there 3 years ago, how come I missed that ???
HI Joanne, thanks for your lovely words.. Adore shooting artists. x
Glad to see my city from a tourist point of view 🙂
The Quartiere delle Ceramiche is a truly unique place that preserve one of the oldest and creative tradition Italy still has alive.
I would nothing but reccomend visit it during a trip to Salento!
HI Eligio, loved Grottaglie and the beautiful garden of Mimmo Vestita.. Off to Salento next. Carla
Just when a person thinks their list of Places to Go is full, a new one pops up.
I love the white ceramics, I would probably have a meltdown if I were there and had to choose 🙂
Hi Candice, Absolutely, so much beauty to see if this world and you are right about the white ceramics.. x
GORGeous!Loved this trip down ceramics land. Thank you for taking me on it. xxx
Hey Carla, ohhhh what wonderful images as always. I’d love to visit this ceramic haven:)) Happy Monday – hope you have a great week.
Stunning ceramics – I could spend hours there! – and wonderful portraits (I particularly like the one of Carmello) – all very proud masters of their craft.
Always a pleasure to receive emails of your updates, Carla!
Stunning as always Carla!!!!