Posts Tagged ‘Assisi’


The last couple of years I have spent time in Campania, where the the town of Cerreto Sannita is known for its wondrous ceramics!  I had the privilege of meeting one of the great master ceramists there, Elvio Sagnella, whose own showroom is in the grotto that housed the workplace of  the esteemed great master, Nicola Giustiniani.  I purchased some beautiful pieces from his son, who showed us around the grotto and pointed out the new look ceramics that he and his brother were creating- breaking away from centuries old patterns.


Deruta -Famous for its Majolica – photo from Pinterest

This day we went on a tour of a ceramic factory in Deruta, in Umbria.  “Deruta is famous as a homeland of ceramics and pottery production  among the most beautiful and precious in Italy.   The cohesion between Deruta and its ceramics is indissoluble and it is the main characteristic of this little town. This production has its roots in  in the most ancient past of Deruta, forging its own historical identity…. Official documents establish  that ceramics of Deruta have been produced since the XIIIth century, although we have reasons to believe that activity such as this started one century earlier.  Anyway, at the end of the XIIIth century, Deruta produced  so many ceramics that it could pay the charges imposed by Perugia in vases instead of money…as early as 1358, Deruta exported more than one thousand vases to Assisi, the homeland of St. Francis….” excerpted from Wikipedia.


One of the many shops offering exquisite ceramics. Photo from Pinterest

We were invited to a private tour of one of the oldest, if not the oldest ceramic factory in continuous existence and operated and owned by the same family. The Grazia family has been producing fine majolica since 1500.   I believe there were over six generations represented in the ancestral photo gallery.


A photo of all the workers one year and the owners.

After walking through room after room of magnificent ceramics, none of which I could afford (and if I could I would be afraid to use them) I came across a small simple white dish with a raised concentric heart design meant for dipping oil.  Interestingly enough when I was in Campania, someone told me that only Americans dip Italian bread in oil and the restaurants in Guardia were mystified at first by the request.


The patterns were myriad. The intricate designs endless


This vase shape is a very old design.


A peek into the owner’s office!

I learned that majolica is really a process and all this time I thought it was a green leaves sort of pattern, so little did I know! That’s right, little!

To Be Continued…


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You can see Assisi from a distance, it sits majestically up on a hill.  We arrived on a very hot afternoon, did I say this town was on a hill? Assisi is basically a small town   anchored by two magnificent basilicas. The first one we visited was the Basilica of Santa Chiara, home of the Order of The Poor Clares. No photo taking allowed!

We had a great guide who told us the story of Chiara d’Offreducci, a young woman from an upper class family. Devoted to prayer from an early age, at age 18, she heard of St. Francis and on Palm Sunday in 1212 she met with him and asked for guidance to live her life according to the Gospel.  She cut her hair and traded her fine gown for a plain robe and veil.  She went from a Benedictine Convent to living in dwelling next to the Church of San Damiano.


Home of The Poor Clares

Her sister joined her and eventually other women joined her to live a life of poverty of no money, no shoes, no meat.

Assisi is a beautiful town, the buildings are all pink and white, the stone is quarried in the the region.


Pink and white bricks almost look painted!


The artistry in using the shading of the stones is fantastic!


My “art” photo – capturing the top of a castle and the cupola.

Just one STRIPE photo


Much of Assisi has been rebuilt and repaired from earthquake damage.

Up the hill and thankfully making our way down, we head toward the Basilica of St. Francis.


The Basilica of St Francis

Again no photos allowed. The interior of this church was vast with two wings and a few altars. This Basilica houses the only known actual image of St. Francis.   St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order Of Monks, who live in poverty, own nothing and to this day wear the garb of the simple brown robe with a rope tie and sandals.  Barbara took these photos, (I think she liked the monks).


And there was a monk walking among us.


A Franciscan monk in the shadows


Facade of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

This ancient church in the photo above was built over a Roman age temple.

Italy doesn’t need a Landmarks Commission to protect their history, every Italian is proud of their heritage and when some piece of antiquity is discovered it is always preserved! Since Assisi has been reconstructed in certain areas over time due to earthquake damage, much of it is not medieval BUT here and there pieces of history exist.  Here is a wall that is still standing from about 300BC!!


Romans built these walls

Besides being the perfect frame for a beautiful Italian countryside view, the arch is part of earlier historical construction!


Historical Beauty

Now why the title of this blog? I was dismayed that the main road through Assisi leading you from one Basilica to the other is lined with tourist shops; statues and crosses carved from olive wood ( the town owns acres and acres of olive groves ), St. Francis and St. Chiara branded in every form imaginable, lots of embroidery, and Italian souvenirs of every kind. I thought it was sad and wondered how Francis and Clare felt about it?

To Be Continued…







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