Terracotta Fair – cooked earth, fine art in Florence

Florence's Ceramic & Terracotta Fair - a great thing to do in Florence to see artworks and meet local artists in Florence

One of Tuscany’s great traditions is about to be showcased in Florence – artworks made from ceramics and terracotta at the Fiera Internazionale della Ceramica 2011.

Terracotta and ceramics have played an important role in the history of Italy dating back since Etruscan times, not only in regards to the great artworks produced, but also in terms of having served Tuscans on a practical level in all of their most precious commodities – wine, oil and food.

In ancient times, Tuscans would store their precious olive oil and wine in large terracotta pots. Tuscan Villa estates would have a dedicated wine cellar, built down into the ground where temperatures would remain around 14 to 18ºC all year round (that’s around 55 to 65ºF). Large wooden barrels would be used to store the wine, but it was also kept in large terracotta barrels too.

In fact, one Tuscan villa wine estate we recently visited on a great day out in TuscanyCastello dei Rampolla in Panzano –  is actually reverting to the traditional terracotta barrels to age their wines as in times past.

Visit a Tuscan Villa wine estate and you will see that above the cellar, there is another level that was used to store large terracotta pots full of Tuscany’s other favourite liquid – extra virgin olive oil. It is usually quite close to the kitchen which was also at the lower level of the house to ensure that supplies could be easily stored and accessed.

Outside, estates would dedicate a large portion of their Tuscany hillside to olive groves as olive oil production represented a great source of income for the estate, as well as providing the olive oil for their own consumption.

Just after finishing the grape harvest in Tuscany’s vineyards, the farmhands would be back out in the Tuscan hillside to collect the olives before cold-pressing them to produce the famed Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. At first it would be rather bright green in colour. It would be tasted by lightly toasting some Tuscan bread, which is made without salt, which you would drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to have the original ‘bruschetta’ recipe, known in Tuscany as ‘fettunta’ – translating to something akin to ‘oily slice’, perfect for olive oil tasting amongst the Tuscany countryside.

The Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil would then be stored in large terracotta pots for use throughout the year.

Lemon trees were – and to this day, still are – commonly grown in large terracotta pots that can be moved indoors during the winter months. Villa estates would have a dedicated lemon tree  house, called the ‘limonaia’ where the trees would be stored in their Tuscan terracotta pots to see out the colder period of the year in Tuscany.

Many great Tuscan recipes are also cooked in small terracotta dishes that go straight from the oven to the table-top. Some favourite Tuscan recipes made in these terracotta bowls include ‘Salsiccia e fagioli’ – the original beans and franks! Then there is the delicious Tuscan onion soup, ‘Zuppa di cipolle toscana’  which became ‘Soupe d’oignons’ – French Onion Soup, when Catherine de’ Medici took the delicious Tuscan soup recipe with her when she went to marry France’s King Henry II. The soup is often served by placing a slice of bread in the single-portion size terracotta bowls, over which is poured the onion soup that is then covered in cheese that infuses into the onion soup to make a taste of heaven!

Terracotta comes from the Latin term for cooked earth, ‘terra cotta’. In Tuscany it is often known simply as ‘cotto’ (cooked), so common is the term here in the land where the Etruscans first molded the earth to make containers from the rich Tuscan countryside soil.

To be classified as terracotta, a work must be made without the use of a potter’s wheel (in which case it would be ‘pottery’, and not terracotta even though the same clay may be worked for both).  Most terracotta works are also unglazed.

On Saturday, 1st October and Sunday, 2nd October 2011 one of Florence’s charming piazzas will be the place to be to explore great art in Florence made by contemporary artists, using ceramics and terracotts. The Piazza S.S. Annunziata in Florence’s historical city centre will be filled with works by around 70 contemporary artists, including many Italian and also international artists who have turned their hand to making art in terracotta and ceramics.

There will be fun thinks for children to do in Florence, as well as artist demonstrations where you can see terracotta making first hand. The terracotta and ceramics works will be on display in the Piazza S.S. Annunziata, itself a must-see site in Florence’s historical city centre.

Involved in the terracotta and ceramics fair is one of Artviva’s prized and much-loved Florence city centre and Uffizi Gallery tour guides, who is also famed as a top tour guide  for Artviva’s Original David Tour, focusing on arguably the world’s best artwork – Michelangelo’s David.

To explore Florence’s most famous museum, the Uffizi Gallery, we have The Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour. There is also our skip-the-line Accademia visit –The Original David Tour to see Michelangelo’s David. Combined with a small-group walking tour of Florence, Original Florence Walk to hear more about Italian traditions and the fascinating history of Florence with an excellent English-speaking tour guide, we have the Florence tours discounted package, Florence in One Glorious Day (or 2).

Upgrade this package to include the exciting and historical collection of portraits in the Vasari Corridor with our exclusive-entry Vasari Corridor tour which follows on from the The Masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery Tour in one great discounted tour package of Florence in Two Glorious Days (or 3).

To learn about the traditional Italian ingredients and learn to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence.

If you are looking for some great things to do in Tuscany to enjoy local cuisine, explore the Tuscan countryside in a small group,  taste Tuscan wine and the like, we have a great range of small-group Tuscany tours.

Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore the historic wine estate before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.

Stroll through the Tuscan countryside,  join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.

If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan countryside and be part of the scenery that has inspired so many great artworks, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, and stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence – Best of Tuscany small-group tour.

Visit the Artviva Walking Tours website for more wonderful things to see and do in Italy, including great tours in Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more, and email us on staff@artviva.com for more information.

For more information about the ceramics fair in Florence, contact the Arte della Ceramica Associazione di Ceramisti – Tel: +39 055 8301075 3477416184, email info@artedellaceramica.net or the Associazione La Fierucola APS – Tel: +39 055 697747 or email lafierucola@libero.it.

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