A riot of dazzling designs and intense colours, Sicily’s ceramics are a national treasure—as visitors to Taormina can discover first hand.
Swirling designs, vibrant colours and intricate patterns: the ceramics of Sicily bring together enormous creativity and centuries of history. The finest hail from the hill town of Caltagirone, where pottery has been a way of life for more than a millennium.
Although beloved of visitors to Sicily, today this traditional craft is under pressure. Young people are moving away from old-established family businesses that demand years of training and into more modern industries. To help support this ancient art, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina organized a Festival of Caltagirone Ceramics, inviting hotel guests and members of the local community. Two ceramicists, brothers Marco and Alessandro Iudici, came to the hotel from Caltagirone to showcase their creations and skills.
The brothers spent a day at the hotel, one sculpting the pieces and the other demonstrating painting techniques. They revealed the exceptional expertise demanded by their work and recounted the stories behind Sicily’s ceramic traditions. They also showed hotel guests how to make their own personalised ceramics, helping them to create some beautiful pieces.
The two men come from a distinguished line of potters dating back to the 1700s. They still use their ancestors’ ancient kilns to produce everything from tiny plates selling at just a few euros to giant anthropomorphic garden ornaments at prices ending in several zeros.
Stepping inside the shop is like entering Aladdin’s Cave. Where will your eyes alight first? On the jugs aglow with brilliant oranges and lemons, plant pots with lizards scurrying across the bases, or on the bigger pieces—elaborate heads of Moors and Saracens, tall lamp-stands, clocks and tabletops.
Whatever takes your fancy, you can be confident that each piece has been expertly handcrafted by a local artisan and is therefore truly unique. Items can be shipped worldwide.
Or why not visit Caltagirone itself? At around one and a half hours’ drive southwest of Taormina it is the perfect add-on to a tour of Catania or Piazza Armerina. At its heart is La Scalinata di Santa Maria dei Monte, a dazzling 142-step staircase inlaid with ceramics and lined by lively ateliers and shops. Rare is the visitor who comes away without at least one of the town’s characteristic blue and yellow maiolica pieces to take home.