The art of ceramics production in Montelupo dates to the Middle Ages, but under Medici rule, the town because a veritable hotbed and the main production site throughout the Florence area.
The fortune of this town is that it’s located on the River Arno, with clay deposits that are vital for making ceramics. These items were used in everyday life, but they were also an expression of wealth, serving as status symbols for noble and bourgeois families. Indeed, for weddings, the most important families ordered entire dining sets from Montelupo comprised of hundreds of pieces.
The ceramics tradition in Montelupo continues even today thanks to the many artisan workshops lining the historic centre, offering a products with traditional decorations alongside contemporary interpretations.
Our journey to discover ceramics in Montelupo Fiorentino begins at the Museum of Ceramics, one of the most important museums dedicated to craftsmanship in Italy. Majolica from Montelupo, long-beloved by Florentine families (like Antinori), was successful and, thanks to the city’s geographic position, was sent away via the river. Indeed, ceramics from Montelupo Fiorentino in Greek, France, Spain and Africa.
The preserves a rich artistic heritage through 1,200 pieces dated from the late 13th to late 18th century.
The collection also contains some pieces that were purchased or donated, the most important being a basin made in 1509 that once belonged to the Rothschild collection in Paris; its red coloring of its decoration has led it to be referred to as the “Rosso di Montelupo”.
After visiting the museum, let’s explore the historic centre of Montelupo. Admiring the artisan products of the past is certainly exciting, but shopping is fun! There are several stores and workshops lining the streets that sell famous locally-produced ceramics. With a bit of luck, we can also see artisans at work as they transform clay and decorate their wares with their own personal styles.
Every year, the last week in June is dedicated to the Ceramics Festival, an important event for the sector with attendees from all over the country. The program includes a vast range of initiatives, including workshops, exhibitions, workshops and games for children.
And for those who love the topic, a ceramics-making course is available for individuals and groups, experts and amateurs: each participant can find the “team” that they want to work with.
In the Archeological Park in Montereggi, several ceramic artefacts and fragments of amphorae dating to the Etruscan period were discovered during digs. Many of these are today conserves in the Archeological Museum in Montelupo, which you can visit with a guide if you want. The museum makes for an amazing outing, where you can even discover monumental Etruscan homes.
The museum also conserves several Roman-era pieces coming primarily from the Villa del Vergigno, a typical city residence extending for one hectare. Below the villa, you can find the baths, with their frigidarium, tiepidarium and calidarium. In the fields surrounding the villa, there are areas used for production, including two kilns for baking ceramics and a space for crushing grapes.