The Ceramics of Vietri

Vietri sul Mare 2007Yesterday we went to Vietri sul Mare, or Vietri on the Sea, a small town of Etruscan origin built on a terrace of land overlooking the sea. In 1997 it was added to the UNESCO’s Heritage of Humanity list, together with the rest of the Amalfi Coast. Deservedly so. We didn’t go to Vietri to lie on its beach or swim in the sea, but to locate a small pottery shop where we had bought a few lovely items three years ago. We found it almost immediately. I asked the owner, who is also the potter, Giovanni Mosca, if I could take a few photos of his shop, and he told me very cheerfully to go right ahead. Ceramiche Mosca 2007Here are a few examples of the work he does. Giovanni Mosca is 45 years old and has been making and decorating pots since he was 15. He told us that he never goes on holiday because of his passion for making ceramics and fiddling around with new techniques. (And in fact his ceramics really stood out for beauty, originality and quality compared to the rather kitsch, frequently almost identical, pottery we saw yesterday in other Vietri shops.) We bought several of his small raku items, exquisite and very reasonably-priced. And an absolutely gorgeous raku wall lamp. Ceramiche Mosca 2007

After buying up a small storm at Ceramiche Mosca, we wandered around the narrow winding streets of the town of Vietri, which in many ways seemed frozen in time: men sitting outside a café chatting and arguing loudly (in dialect, which here in the region of Campania is wonderfully colorful) while gesticulating furiously and an elderly lady lowering a basket from her terrace to collect an item from a woman in the street. So slow-paced, so peaceful, so ancient.

Majolica wall tile, Vietri 2007But what I loved most about Vietri, apart from Ceramiche Mosca, of course, were the majolica tiles (these are just a few examples of the photos I took). We saw tiles everywhere: the names of the streets were painted on handmade tiles, colorful hand painted tiles hung above and sometimes all around the storefronts of Cheese and salami shop signmeat and cheese shops (see photo on left), and tiles, both old and new, haphazardly decorated building walls almost at every step. On the right is the photo of a large decorated wall tile with a view of the Amalfi Coast and a sailboat. We saw entire sides of buildings covered with ceramic scenes of everyday life. Extraordinary. Below is the photo of a ceramic fountain (depicting, in the foreground, a person devouring a piece of watermelon) that we encountered while climbing up toward the 17th century Church of San Giovanni Battista, which, surprise surprise, has a brightly-colored majolica dome.

Ceramic fountain, Vietri 2007As you may have guessed (!), Vietri is famous for its ceramics. There are pottery shops everywhere you look. This ceramic tradition dates back to the Middle Ages and became well-established in the 15th century. In fact, Vietri has its own ceramic museum (which we did not visit yesterday) that has pieces dating back at least to the 15th century. This small seaside town now has its own registered DOC ( di origine controllata ) high quality trademark. The DOC trademark, by the way, has traditionally been given to high quality Italian wines and cheeses, and it is only in recent years that it has been assigned to ceramics as well. A personal note: when Stefano and I bought and renovated our first (and only!) house several years ago, we decided to have our bathrooms decorated with colorful handmade Vietri tiles, which turned out beautifully. At any rate, yesterday’s visit was not our last one to Vietri sul Mare or the Amalfi Coast. But the best time to visit the Costiera is the fall or early winter, not the middle of August!

Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, Vietri 2007


  1. Hello Margaret
    I am going to Italy this summer and plan to visit Vietri Sul Mare where my grandmother was born.
    I hope to find out additonal information about her family

    do you know how to reach the church there or town hall. where I may find birth, marriage, death certificates ..etc..
    or even possibly long lost relatives!
    I wanted to find out somehow..what hours the Church of St John is open and or the “town hall”
    or if there are any days it is closed since this will be in the middle of our trip
    I appreciate any information you can provide.

    Your pictures are wonderful and I will plan to go to the ceramic store of Giovanni Mosca

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *