In Pursuit of Pottery in Pienza, Italy
Our first trip to Italy back in 2009 took us to some amazing locations. Prior to leaving for Italy, my wife mentioned to me that while we were there she wanted to find some pottery pieces to bring back with her. Being somewhat frugal, my initial reaction to this was, "Oh no, how much is this going to cost us?" Having no idea what pottery costs in Italy and assuming that any pottery we might find would be well out of our budget, I quickly put my mind at ease and assumed that it just would not happen.
And so off we went on our initial trip to Italy. Our first week in Italy took us to Cinque Terre, the Dolomite region, Venice and then on to Tuscany. Everything was working out wonderfully, we were having a great time, and my wife had yet to see any pottery pieces that really piqued her interest. I was certain that we would make it through Tuscany and then Rome and be on our way home with great memories, a couple of thousand pictures, and no pottery.
Our first full day in Tuscany took us to San Gimignano and Pisa. It was during our visit to San Gimignano that we—or my wife, I should say—started to notice the abundance of pottery shops. I, however, started to notice the prices! I also started to get nervous! My way out of this was to tell my wife that it would be impossible to get delicate pottery home in one piece, that it would likely cost a lot to have them shipped, that we could probably find the same thing back home, and on and on. Anything I could think of to avoid having to drop hundreds of euro on pottery.
On our second day in Tuscany, we strolled into the town of Pienza late one afternoon. Sure enough, this quaint Tuscan town had its share of pottery shops. As we walked through Pienza, suddenly my wife came to a small shop, stopped, stared at their window display, and announced to the world, “that’s it.” “That’s it what?” was probably my reply. That’s my pottery. “Oh no” was probably now running through my mind.
As I rushed to see what lay in that window display my mind was working overtime trying to figure a way out of this. After showing me the pieces in the display, she promptly said, “let’s go in and see how much.” I begrudgingly agreed, and then by some act of divine intervention, I was saved. The shop was closed. Hallelujah, I proclaimed to the world.
As we left Pienza, my wife’s disappointment was evident, so we agreed to take down the name of the shop, take a photo of the pieces, and promised that when we got home we would look online to see if we could somehow locate the pottery.
Our last few days in Italy we spent busily touring Rome and before we knew it our two weeks in Italy were done and we were on our way home, with no pottery. Once home we did try to find a web site for the shop and to locate the pieces on-line but it was all to no avail. That was it I thought, the Tuscan pottery issue is now closed.
Anyone who has been to Italy for the first time can probably relate to our sentiments on the flight home. We need to come back here, and soon! And so shortly after returning home, we began to plan our second trip.
Our second journey to Italy was to be in September of 2010. This trip was going to be with some friends who did not accompany us on our first trip. Wanting to see something new and also accommodate our friends' desire to see certain things, this being their first trip, we quickly settled on an itinerary that was going to take us to Florence, southern Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and finally to Rome. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would wind up back in Pienza. It wasn’t in our plans as we were going to spend one day in Siena and Monteriggioni, and dedicate the second day to possibly Assisi or Montepulciano.
Well, that evening we were having a discussion with our host, Giacamo, from the Agriturismo Le Caggiole and he mapped out for us a great one day tour of southern Tuscany that would take us to Monticchiello, Montepulciano and yes, Pienza. I think my palms immediately began to sweat. "Oh no, not Pienza". My wife’s reaction was markedly different. “Pienza”, she perked up, that’s where my pottery is, she exclaimed. And so, with virtually no time to prepare my excuses, we were off to Pienza. My only hope now was that the small pottery shop was no longer there.
We arrived in Pienza fairly early in the day so there was no hope that the shop, if still there, would be closed. Like a migrating bird returning home, my wife made a beeline back to her pottery shop and sure enough, the shop was there and open. While the pottery she saw in the window display the previous year was no longer there, they had an abundance of interesting handmade pieces, and in no time at all I found myself haggling with the shop owner in an attempt to get a better price.
And so, for 190 euro (actually not too bad at all), we are now the proud owners of two hand made Tuscan bowls, one a pasta bowl and the other for meatballs, sausage, etc. The only thing left to worry about was how in the world were we going to get these home in one piece?
Pottery in hand, well not really as they are quite large, we headed off on the rest of our vacation. One of the deals I made with my wife was that if you buy it, you are responsible for it. And so my wife began the process of guarding her pottery bowls with her life. I’m really not sure she would have allowed anyone else to handle them anyway so it all worked out.
From Tuscany to Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and then to Rome, she carried these babies around like they were, well, babies. And in doing so she successfully managed to get them on the airplane with her as we headed home. Landing back in the United States and thinking they were safely home we eagerly waited in the customs line to declare our purchases. And then it almost happened. A rude and pushy woman tried to shove her way in front of my wife and almost knocked the bags with the pottery out of her hands. A very close call indeed!
And so my wife’s two-year odyssey for the perfect Tuscan pottery pieces has a happy ending and they are now proudly displayed in our home. They have managed to survive since then through multiple uses and the many visits from our 2-year-old grandson who has managed to touch everything in our home except the pottery. To this day I am still afraid to handle the pieces as I don't want to break them. If that happened I might find myself back in Pienza, although that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Ciao for now.
Was It Worth the Effort?
Other Articles on Tuscany
- Exploring San Gimignano
San Gimignano is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in all of Tuscany. It's unique towers make it one of the most picturesque and unique towns and certainly worthy of a visit.
- Monticchiello, Tuscanys Overlooked Gem
Want to visit a beautiful medieval Tuscan village without fighting the crowds? Then head to Monticchiello, a small village tucked away in southern Tuscany between Montepulciano and Pienza. This is how Tuscany used to be.
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© 2012 Bill De Giulio