The Muceb, the Museum of Burgio ceramics (‘Museo della ceramica di Burgio’) in Agrigento, tells the story of ‘roba di Sicilia’ (literally, “Sicily’s stuff”): that is what the earthenware artifacts produced in the island from the end of the 16th century were called outside of the region. Their production was concentrated in the shops and furnaces in a neighborhood of ceramic craftsmen, that gradually expanded on a mountain of clay and rivers.

Indeed, by the 1500s many families of ceramists had started to move their household goods and craftsmanship from Caltagirone to Burgio, less than 200 kilometers away but far more conducive to the production of vases, bottles, glasses and other tableware that were traditionally decorated with white and blue floral and animal-inspired patterns. The abundance of water, the good-quality clay, the presence of forests necessary to fire up the furnaces were irresistible.

And just as irresistible was the success of Burgio’s ceramics in the following centuries. Then, in the 1800s, Naples and Vietri became the trend. Neapolitan products maintained high quality standards and were less expensive, but were still referred to as ‘roba di Sicilia’.

The fire in Burgo’s ovens eventually went out, but the clay mountain continues to echo with ancient supremacy.


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December 12, 2013


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