Sunday, September 22, 2013

Deruta - A Story About Pottery...

Il 22 settembre 2013

The story of Deruta is the story of la ceramica; the pottery of this small Umbrian town is known throughout the world. With soil rich in water and clay, the necessary natural resource was in abundance and, thus, Deruta was the perfect place for such a craft to have its origins. The evolution of Deruta majolica goes back to the twelfth-fourteenth centuries when the pottery was made primarily for daily use - bowls, basins, and pitchers decorated with geometric, floral, and animal patterns and brown in color. In the fifteenth century, yellow, blue, and orange were added; the motifs became more intricate and complicated and the artistry reached its height. Now not only for daily use, the majolica took on a ceremonial tone and exquisite ceramic plates were created with pictures of noblemen or, perhaps that of a bride and groom...a perfect wedding gift! The artists, Giacomo Mancini and Francesco Urbini refined the “lustro” technique and tiles and other decorative objects were then in demand in Umbrian churches. Styles may have changed during the successive years, but the craftsmanship only got better. One can see firsthand the production of Deruta ceramica in the many workshops, studios, and factories found in the town.

My visit to Deruta last Wednesday had a personal touch. When visiting the Antica Fornace Deruta, one of many ancient kilns, I was privileged to meet Giovanni Baiano and his lovely wife and learn, firsthand, the history of this local craft. Giovanni's vast knowledge and boundless enthusiasm made my visit memorable and the story of how he and his American wife met just by chance reinforced my belief that romantic love can happen in the “wink of an eye”...or is it a “turn of the potter's wheel.”



Una Avventura In Umbria - #1

il 22 settembre, 2013

I've been back in Assisi for well over a week now and each day I remind myself that I haven't yet posted a blog entry. Am I becoming lazy...or maybe I feel like I've said it all; what more can I write about this place that feels like a second home, that welcomes me each time I arrive, that is so familiar, and yet always has something new for me to discover.
These past twelve days have been busy ones for me as I've arranged “una piccola avventura” in Umbria for a group of ten people who will arrive on Wednesday. Although I reserved the lodging a year ago, hired my two Italian guides last May, and had already planned out the itinerary in full, it seems there is always a little bit more to do to ensure that this trip will be something personal and memorable for my guests. So, just to make sure, I ate in several new restaurants this past week which (being a “foodie”) was much fun, so that I felt certain I had selected the eating experiences I would like my group to have. Dining is very important in this country; it is part of the culture here in Italy which is why the opening of “fast-food” establishments is, to me, unfortunate. Granted, one can get a wonderful panino or slice of pizza “per portare via”... but to fully appreciate “la passione italiana” one needs to sit and enjoy a meal...many meals...accompanied by the “requisite” amount of wine.

The weather this week has been glorious with lots to sun to welcome the throngs of tourists who come here from all over the world. With the Pope's arrival in Assisi on the 4th of October, the Assisani are in a state of expectation. Hundreds of thousands are expected and the security will be unprecedented. Carabinieri and la Polizia are coming from places near and far, as well as the Pope's own security from il Vaticano. In order to even walk on the street (as if one will be able to!), it is required to have a special pass...not just for the visiting tourists, but even for the Assisani. It was necessary to apply “online” and when one of my friends went to pick up her pass, she was told that over 50,000 requests had already come in and that her application for a pass was accepted...but, as of yesterday, she had still not yet been given one. There is not a room to be had in the entire city and I wonder what will happen to the to “very many” who will come here with the expectation of seeing il Papa, but don't have the requisite pass to move about.

The week of the Pope's arrival, my guests will be staying in a villa outside the city walls, but, even so, I am taking them into the countryside, far away from the confusion, however exciting (or not) it might be. And to do this...we must leave the area early in the morning as the streets in and out of the city and in the environs will be closed from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Yes, this will be quite the adventure!