Every year in June Montelupo Fiorentino, a city in the province of Florence, dedicates a few days to its most important and famous product, ceramic, organizing a festival dedicated to it: Montelupo Ceramics Festival.
On this occasion, the organization provides many visits to factories and workshops, meetings with ceramists and artisans, and in-depth examinations of the history, life and production of this ancient art. Of course, all this is combined with other events, like music, shows and games for children and adults.
Since the Middle Ages, this small city distinguished itself as a ceramic production center, especially of majolica (enamelled ceramic), and the moment of greatest production was in 1400 and 1500. In 1406, in fact, Florence conquered Pisa, and this allowed the Montelupo’s artifacts (and not just them) to open up a new sea route; moreover, this gave the artisan the opportunity to compete with the Spanish ceramics, that imposed on Montelupo a qualitative increase in its production activity: in fact, from this moment on, it began to specialize in the Spanish-Moorish-style majolica (with a prevalent use of blue and green).
Essential in these centuries were also the Florentine commissions by private families as the Medici, as well as by important institutes like the Old Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, or commercial carriers like the Antinori family, all elements that allowed the Montelupo’s Majolica to be shipped all over the world through the Arno river and the ports of Pisa and Livorno: remnants of these artifacts, in fact, were found in Central America, in the Philippines, and in many European countries.
This city became thus the heart of the ceramic production in the Florentine territory, becoming the main activity of the local families, so that in those centuries more than fifty manufactures could be counted within the city walls, most of them with its own distinctive brand.
Even today ceramic processing is a symbol of this place, and there are still workshops and factories devoted to this production, that, in some cases, today as in the past, is able to create real works of art.
The city of Montelupo has reconstructed the entire history and development of this specific tradition in the Museo della Ceramica (Ceramics Museum), where more than thousand pieces are displayed, most of them found during some excavations in the historic center of Montelupo. There are pieces that were destined to the Medici family, as revealed by the presence of their emblem, to the Medici Pope Leo X, and other members of the Roman Church. One of the most important artworks is the famous “Rosso di Montelupo” (“Red of Montelupo”), a basin dated 1509, decorated with grotesques on a yellow and red background, named after the particular red pigment in its decoration, which composition is still mystery today.