Faenza, the international capital of ceramic art

Faenza, the international capital of ceramic art

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In the birthplace of designer pottery

Known throughout the world as the City of Ceramics, to the extent that the city’s name is used to indicate majolica in many languages, including French (Faïence) and English (Faience), Faenza is the point of reference for ceramics. Although the first artefacts for domestic use date back to shortly after the year 1000, it was towards the end of the 1300s that local artisans began to refine the technique. They began introducing Renaissance motifs such as figures of flowers and animals into the decorations and in the second half of the 16th century introduced a new style with the sparsely decorated “Bianchi di Faenza”.

Fast forward to the current day and ceramics continue to represent one of the main tourist attractions of this former feud of the Manfredi family. There are many options for anyone who wishes to plunge into a world in which artistic sensitivity combines with great craftsmanship and a profound knowledge of the different world cultures. Certainly, the best place to start is the International Ceramics Museum, a cultural centre of reference on a global level that houses a collection of over sixty thousand works, from items dating back to 4000 BC to contemporary pieces and with works from the Far East to the Americas, alongside a rich section dedicated to Faenza ceramics. In addition to precious photographic and documentary archives there is a restoration laboratory and the “Playing with Ceramics” educational laboratory created by Bruno Munari.

Yet the city is also home to other valuable collections linked to the figures of some highly talented artists: the Carlo Zauli Museum, the Guerrino Tramonti Foundation, the Riccardo Gatti Museum, and the Leandro Lega Museum. Along the narrow alleys of the historic centre, you can find dozens of artisan ceramic workshops. There are also several laboratories where visitors can experience the creative process directly, shaping the clay with their own hands, undoubtedly, the best way to understand traditional and modern techniques of producing Faenza pottery.

Ceramic objects of daily use in sixteenth-century Faenza also appear in some paintings housed in the Municipal Art Gallery, which has the most important collection of art from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century in Romagna. This museum exudes considerable charm, as does Palazzo Milzetti, home of the National Museum of the Neoclassical Age in Romagna.

Photo credits

1. Persian palmette decoration, arch. Unione della Romagna Faentina
2. A glass of Romagna Centesimino Oriolo Doc, arch. Torre di Oriolo
3. The PGI Scalogno di Romagna, arch. Unione della Romagna Faentina
4. An educational laboratory, arch. MIC Faenza
5. The International Museum of Ceramics, arch. MIC Faenza

Food – Romagna Shallot PGI

The Romagna Shallot PGI is an aromatic bulb of the Allium ascalonicum species that is widespread in the province of Ravenna in the municipalities of Brisighella, Casola Valsenio, Castel Bolognese, Faenza, Riolo Terme and Solarolo. Originally from Ascalon, the city in ancient Palestine to which it owes its name, it arrived in Europe with the waves of migrations, especially that of the Celts who spread its cultivation.

It was always grown in the family gardens of the Senio and Santerno Valleys and traditionally served as lunch for the agricultural labourers who had to face the hard work of harvesting with a handful of shallot bulbs, some stale bread, and a flask of Sangiovese to keep them going.

A mix of garlic and onion, this bulb is now widely used in cooking. Its flavour is strong but sweeter, making it the ideal ingredient when preparing pasta sauces, vegetables, and roasts. When harvested green and finely chopped, the leaves can give an added zest to salads.

Wine – Romagna Centesimino Oriolo DOC

The Centesimino grape was grown on the Faenza hills in the 17th century and was rediscovered in the 1940s when Pietro Pianori came across it in the garden of a noble residence in the heart of Faenza. The courtyard’s protective walls had saved the vines from the phylloxera epidemic which had destroyed most of Italy’s vineyards in previous decades.

Once planted in Oriolo dei Fichi, the vine again spread through the area and was nicknamed after its saviour who was affectionately known as Centesimino. Since the 2022 wine harvest, it has become part of the Romagna DOC though today the grape is also now widely cultivated in other areas of Ravenna and Forlì.

Vinified in different versions – sparkling, rosé or still red, riserva and passito – Centesimino’s characteristics set it apart with a floral bouquet and spicy notes. The riserva red wine pairs very well with game birds while the passito is delightful with chocolate desserts.

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