From the art of ceramics to master glassmakers

The art of ceramics and glass in the Emilia-Romagna region

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The ancient art of shaping and decorating raw materials is still a hallmark of the entire Emilia-Romagna region, where the production of ceramics is one of the most important industrial and artisan institutions.

The centre of this art form is Faenza, on the Via Emilia, in the heart of Romagna. The significance of this town on the history of ceramic production is illustrated by the fact that the term “faïence” is still used in some areas of Europe as a synonym for maiolica.

The secrets of shapes and enamels have been handed down in its workshops for centuries, and this spirit and creativity is continued today with the production of fine ceramics that are CDO certified.

Events such as Argillà or Buongiorno Ceramica! clearly demonstrate the importance of this art form, whose history and evolution is visually narrated in the two museums in the centre of Faenza: the MIC - International Ceramics Museum and the Carlo Zauli Museum.

However, the artistic manipulation of clay in Emilia-Romagna does not end with Faenza. In Imola, for example, this art form is shown in all its glory in the collections of medieval and Renaissance ceramics conserved at the Rocca Sforzesca castle and at Palazzo Tozzoni, while at the “G. Bucci” Museum and Historical Artistic Documentation Centre more contemporary styles can be found.

In Cesena and the surrounding area, there is the production of traditional decorations and the typical terracotta baking trays used to cook Romagna’s famous piadina [a thin, Italian flatbread], whose historic production centre is located in the village of Montetiffi.

In Rimini, Montescudo and Montefiore Conca, there are ancient workshops specialised in ceramic art and maiolica decorations with a focus on the conservation of popular wisdom, which are a fascinating place to visit for those who want to see the creation of these works of art in person.

Heading back up the coast to Ferrara, you will come across the art of graffito ceramics, which has been reintroduced today using the same techniques and creative skills of the past. Not far away, in the Bologna region, ceramic production, by contrast, draws upon traditions from Faenza, Sicily and the local area with the historic production of terracotta in its artisan workshops. 

Travelling along the Via Emilia, you arrive in Modena. This city also has a centuries-old tradition linked to the creation of tiles: a decorative art form that can be seen in the workshops of Modena, Sassuolo, Vignola and Castelnuovo Rangone. The Ceramics Museum inside the castle of Spezzano and the decorations at the Ducal Palace of Sassuolo offer visitors the finest examples from Modena’s tile masters.

Created in the Canossa area once controlled by the Countess Matilde, in Reggio Emilia, you will find the Ars Canusina®, inspired by the decorative motifs of Romanesque art. These are all unique pieces, made “to the highest standards”: from ceramic plates to glass picture frames, from maiolica stoves to mirrors.

While the production of ceramics is prevalent throughout the region, in the area of Bologna and Modena, the artisan tradition linked to the production of glass has also found its place. In the capital of the region, they make use of a blowing technique that has been used for centuries for the restoration of Gothic cathedrals and to create new artistic stained glass pieces; while in the workshops of Modena, Carpi and San Felice sul Panaro old master glassmakers breath life into incredible works of art.