Embarking on a journey to discover Tuscia is like diving into the past each time, into a place that at times seems to have paused in time, brimming with ancient traditions that still resurface and characterize the entire region.
Among these popular traditions, the art of ceramics is perhaps one of the oldest and most captivating, capable of recounting not only the customs of the ancient people who once dominated these lands, but also the art that has come down to us through millennia and lives on through many historical workshops scattered throughout Tuscia.
AN ANCIENT TRADITION
The Viterbese tradition of transforming simple clay into valuable works of art can be attributed to the ancient Etruscan civilization.
Thanks to this mysterious people, shrouded in legend even today, Viterbese ceramics are now renowned throughout Italy and abroad.
From Etruscan necropolises like that of Tarquinia, Etruscan ceramics and those from nearby Magna Graecia have allowed us to reconstruct the vast history of an ancient place like Tuscia. Some potters from southern Italy and Greece settled in Etruria in the past, opening workshops that over time became famous and helped spread this exceptional art form. The techniques evolved over time, and the artifacts became increasingly intricate and captivating, each one unique.
Among these, the most interesting and well-known is undoubtedly the “bucchero,” a type of vase created through a process involving the mixture of fine clays and iron, resulting in a porous and fragile texture and a dark gray/black color.
Even today, marvelous artifacts dating back thousands of years continue to emerge from Etruscan necropolises, each one tied to a story, as if all were part of an enormous mosaic depicting the history of Tuscia.
However, the art of ceramics also left its mark on medieval Viterbo. We can learn this from the marvelous “Zaffera,” a typical majolica with cobalt blue relief decorations, originating in the Siena area and then reaching Tuscia. The intense blue, as well as the glassy reflections and contrast with the pearly white background, have made this ceramic style well-known. Today, it can be admired in many workshops and museums throughout various villages.
EXPLORING TUSCIA THROUGH CERAMICS, UNVEILING VILLAGES AND TRADITIONS
Uncovering this history is one of the most fascinating journeys one can take in Viterbo.
We could start in the city of Acquapendente, rich in history and known for its ceramics. The local tradition for this art form dates back to the Middle Ages, as revealed by the wonderful artifacts present in local museums, such as Torre Julia de Jacopo or the Palazzo Vescovile. These museums are managed by the Cooperativa Ape Regina, which for over 20 years has been dedicated to showcasing the region’s treasures, allowing all visitors to learn about the countless wonders tied to local tradition and folklore.
Following the footsteps of the Etruscans and their great ceramic art, we can reach the small and enchanting village of Grotte di Castro. Here, just a stone’s throw from Lake Bolsena, we can explore the Palazzo Comunale, designed by Vignola, which hosts an archaeological museum dedicated to the ancient local population.
Diving even deeper into the specifics, we can visit the San Pellegrino district in Viterbo. On the ancient main street of the district, we can meet two of Viterbo’s most renowned ceramic artists today: Daniela Lai and Cinzia Chiulli. Their art studios are true attractions that transport us back to past centuries, with stories of history and, of course, the marvelous creations of these two artists. These are two not-to-be-missed experiences that make our visit to the capital of Viterbo even more splendid and captivating.
Among the villages not to be missed is Tuscania, the birthplace of Etruscan art. Its Tuscanese Archaeological Museum is among the largest in the region, rich with artifacts found in the surrounding area, such as in the necropolises of Madonna dell’Olivo and Carcarello, telling a history spanning hundreds of years. A perfect reason for a stroll in this town that beautifully bridges the territories of Upper Lazio and Tuscany, characterized by well-preserved high walls, large public gardens, and many historical residences waiting to be discovered.
Delving even further into the history of Tuscia, we can finally reach Valentano.
This village overlooking Lake Bolsena, dominating it from above with its panoramic terraces, allows us to reach even the prehistoric era thanks to the many artifacts preserved in the Prehistoric Museum of Tuscia within the Palazzo Comunale. Here again, we encounter ceramic art spanning from the Paleolithic period to the Modern Age and the High Middle Ages, with a rich collection of artistic relics tied to the Orsini and Farnese families.