This article originaly appeared in the June 2009 issue of Dream of Italy. Updated 2018.
There is one reason to visit Deruta: Ceramics. Period.
A small hilltop village, 15 minutes south of Perugia down the E45 superstrada, Deruta has been the center of the ceramics-making industry in Italy since the 1300s. It boasts dozens of family owned studios and “factories” where local artisans hand-paint each piece, ranging from small butter dishes to ornate wall plates and outdoor garden tables. Today traditional patterns, born hundreds of years ago and passed down from generation to generation, exist side by side with more modern styles, as competing artists vie for the almighty tourist dollar.
Deruta consists of two distinct areas. The lower town consists of rows of showrooms and retail shops in the modern, non-descript buildings that line the Via Tiberina. The older, historic and more charming part of Deruta is found on the top of the hill. Here, too, the streets are lined with small shops, and you can often watch artists painting in the back rooms as they wait for customers.
The industry here is made up of dozens of independent artisans, mostly family operations that churn out hundreds of shapes in recognizable traditional designs – like ricco deruta, Raffaelesco, green rooster – as well as other, newer designs often based upon the traditional patterns. Because designs are not trademark protected, successful design ideas are freely “borrowed” with each artist putting his own particular imprint on a design and leading to a variety of designs that you can mix and match.
Deruta is not a place to shop for bargains. These pieces are truly hand-painted, meaning a real human being has applied every brush stroke to the piece. Even after years of experience, it still takes hours of labor by master artists to complete each original piece and each one is (and should be) a little different from its predecessor, making each one a truly unique work of art. As you travel through Italy you may find gift shops with bargain basement prices, but stop in Deruta to buy your pieces of art.
One final note, if you have time while in town, make sure to visit the Museo Regionale della Ceramica, the regional museum of ceramics, which chronicles the development of ceramic art in Umbria and houses a collection of pieces dating back hundreds of years. (Largo San Francesco, 1; 39-075-9711000; www.museoceramicadideruta.it)
— Suzy and Bill Menard
Where to Shop
Geribi, with showrooms on the Via Tiberina and just off the main square in the historic center, is one of the most respected and copied artists in Deruta. Run by Gerardo Rigibini and his wife Assunta, who paint much of the studio’s output, Geribi is credited with creating many of Deruta’s new traditional-modern designs, patterns that are based upon the color schemes and designs of the traditional renaissance patterns, but which emphasize brighter colors and greater detail. Geribi’s design ideas have been widely copied in Deruta, but few can match his artistic heights and top quality.
Via Tiberina Sud Via Umberto, I
(39) 075 9711323
Where to Eat
La Locanda del Bracconiere serves a fixed price lunch for a mere 15 euros (their fixed dinner menu costs slightly more). Start with a self-serve antipasti bar and enjoy a home cooked pasta and secondo. You will find few tourists here, mostly locals, which is always a sure sign of good food.
Via Borgo Garibaldi, 8
(39) 075 92353