08/03/2012 - Grottaglie

The Rakish Rooster

The rakish rooster revisited by Enza Fasano

In the ubiquitous ceramics workshops, in every restaurant with a traditional or rustic flavour, in every souvenir shop, on the sideboards and window sills of trulli homes, the strutting cockerel is everywhere, practically a symbol of Apulia, traditionally cheek by jowl with little blue flowers.

The dashing galletto of old, yellow breast and swanky blue tail feathers, is the typical decoration of artisanal ceramic tableware in the region, the kind made for everyday use.

With an abundance of clay and the historic influence of ancient Greek colonists, there have always been potters galore down here, and nowhere more so than in Grottaglie, near Taranto. On a hill riddled with caves above a sea of gnarled olive trees, Grottaglie has a whole district of pottery workshops, many of them in the grottos, with ranks of raw grey pots marshalled outside to dry.

The rustic tradition holds sway among the artisans, but some, like Enza Fasano, have refined a distinctive artistic style and a variety of decoration techniques. In many of the 50-odd workshops you can watch as pots are thrown on the wheel or decorated. Then showrooms and shops tempt you with a multi-coloured array of hand-painted tableware with or without the rakish rooster, roughly-finished amphorae of the kind once used to store oil, wine and olives, highly-glazed ornamental - and talismanic - pigne or pumi,  the human figures known as pupi, vases, lamps, a profusion of knick-knacks and an infinity of terracotta whistles.

Grottaglie boasts a trademark for traditional artistic pottery produced in the town, and a ceramics museum housed in its castle.

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