(November 2, 2015) On our travels to find different wineries and wines, and get out into Umbria, Pat and I decided to make a short stop in nearby Deruta, one of the most famous names in the world for high-quality majolica ceramics. The town is filled with small shops, many featuring an artist painting in the window, or inside the shop, and photographs are always welcomed. The artistry of that hand painting is all over the town—in the shops lining the highway through the newer part of town, and up in the small square of the “centro storico”—the “historic center”—where we stopped for a visit.
Even the public bathroom, located near the parking outside the entrance through the city wall, was decorated with hand-painted tiles, forming a mural showcasing the special points to see in Deruta. In fact, the sign for the toilet, itself, was hand-painted in one of the traditional styles—and is still the most beautiful “toilet” sign I have ever seen.
In less than a block, Pat and I reached the central piazza, with many of the shops closed for lunch, or for the I Morti holiday. The windows of the main square were all decorated with majolica tiles, and several of the shops had many of their wares on display on the walls around their doors.
I was “on a mission,” planning a kitchen and home remodel to begin in a few months, and was looking for a pattern or a tile that I could include in my kitchen backsplash, or possibly use in one of my bathrooms. I knew that if I found a pattern I liked, I could commission my friend Paola to paint the tiles for me—adding both a touch of Italy and the hand of Paola into my new kitchen design. I searched through several stores, and purchased a few example tiles to bring to Paola to find out if my plan was even feasible.
I stopped in front of one shop that I hadn’t seen on my previous visits—where hand-painted ceramic guitars were on display in the window. I noticed the photo of Carlos Santana, holding one of the guitars from the shop, and took a photo of the guitar in the window—just as the owner returned from lunch and made it clear that he didn’t allow photos.
Around the square, there were many murals made of individually painted tiles, then assembled together on the walls. One was the story of “le majoliche” in Deruta, told in bright colors with painted tiles.
Pat and I went down the steep stairs to find the Deruta Ceramics Museum, where old pieces were on display, but with absolutely no one in the shop but us. As we were leaving, the manager arrived to show us around, including making certain that we saw the two old Etruscan-era kilns down steep stairs below the museum, where wood fires baked the glazed and painted ceramics. Outside the museum was a wall mosaic made from broken shards of pieces fired and broken, or dropped or damaged, combining both antique pieces and ones made more recently.
On our way back to the car, we passed an arched alley, decorated with terra cotta trim and painted tiles, another of the many details that catch the eye in every corner of the centro storico and the main piazza ringed with shops.
At last, we passed one of my favorites—a small mural about a meter square, made of six painted tiles and depicting a beautiful lady holding a cornucopia in one hand. I admire the fine detail and the delicate flesh tones each time I pass this—art in the open to be enjoyed by anyone visiting Deruta and passing by–anyone with the curiosity to pay attention to the many fine pieces displayed on the walls of the square.