Grottaglie is a city in the province of Taranto and was built on a whole rock of limestone. The countryside that surrounds the city is full of deep ravines that open the ground into the heart of the limestone-rock which has formed breathtaking caves. For this reason the city was named Grottaglie, from the Latin ‘Kriptalys’, which means several caves.
This small town famous for its ceramics is an irresistible mix of elegance, history and lots of art.
History of Grottaglie
Grottaglie’s origins date back to the Palaeolithic age but the most important historical remains date back to the medieval period when the population began to settle and make the caves their home. Still today, if you take a tour of the caves you can still see what remains of the original homes including: stairs, paths and canal systems used to drain rainwater.
It is located in the province of Taranto, which 3000 years ago was under the rule of Magna Graecia; it is known for its pottery tradition and has its own neighborhood dedicated to it, an art present in many corners of the city, like the “urban” that decorates so many of its walls.
Walking through its oldest streets you can admire how they preserve a unique beauty that sometimes borders on the decadent.
Despite becoming a Modern and dynamic city in recent years, Grottaglie still retains the historical charm of its past, thanks to a number of buildings dating from the 15th century that adorn the old town including the Bishop’s Castle built in the 15th century by order of the archbishop of Taranto, which had also ordered the construction of the fortification walls.
Essential elements of the castle are a large central square and its square tower. It was later enlarged and remodeled, with a façade of the Baroque period. The castle is now owned by the city council and hosts the “Museum of Ceramic” which exhibits ceramics dating back to the 8th century BC till today.
Of considerable historical and architectural importance is also the Mother Church which was built in the 13th century by order of Bishop too. Inside is the chapel of the Rosary with Baroque altars dedicated to two saints of the city: St. Cyrus and St. Francis.
Grottaglie has become famous over the years for its production of grapes which is used for the production of fine wines, and also in particular to the activity of handmade pottery. The manufacture of pottery within the region dates back to medieval times, but it’s only at the end of 18th century that the School of Art in Grottaglie was created. Still open and in business today, it operates in the old district located in the old town.
There was a time when ceramics were not merely ornamental, and today they no longer have such a presence in the home. But in Grottaglie that tradition that has lasted since medieval times is still preserved and pampered. It is a territory rich in clay, which has made it easier for this art to be cultivated, basing its structure and economy on it.
The manufacturing of ceramics is still of strategic importance both in economic but also cultural terms. The school houses its own souvenir shop which is open daily, and for a small fee you can see the masters as they work the clay making everything from: Plates, mugs, bowls, cups, as well as decorative designs on tiles. Grottaglie is also included in the list of the 28 Italian ceramic cities by “AICC” “Italian Association Pottery Town”.