Grottaglie, the Apulian city of ceramics


Grottaglie, a town in the Ionian province located a few kilometers from Taranto, is still today a major city in the economic - productive and artistic-cultural scene of Puglia. The landscape has characteristic calcareous fossil outcrops (molluscs, foraminifera and microfaunas): calcanenite of Gravina, the so-called tuff and limestone of Altamura. Grottaglie is the only Pugliese ceramic center protected by the D.O.C. trademark, with its many potters' shops, and inserted in the restricted list of the 28 cities of Italian ceramics, to this date.

According to some local historians, at the end of the eighteenth century there were 42 factories in the town, most of which were in the Ceramics Quarter: spaces where time seems to have stopped, where the methodical passing of the hours is still marked by the rhythm of techniques of ancient workmanship, and where the only sound that acts as a soundtrack to the rapid movement of the hands of the craftsman is that produced by the lathe in its incessant rotation.

To these historical roots, they are joined by others of a legendary nature, and so were born the so-called "Pupe con i baffi" (dolls with moustaches) in the shape of anthropomorphic bottle, with the semblance of a Junoesque woman representing the skill and manual and artistic competence of the craftsmen of Grottaglie.

The legend of the "Pupe coi baffi"

The story sees as protagonist a winemaker of Martina Franca who in the eighteenth century wanted to marry a young girl from Grottaglie. 

In feudal times, the feudal lord used to spend the first night of marriage with the women of the fief in the Apulian villages. This custom took the name of ius primae noctis, so the young girl had to spend that night with the feudal lord of Grottaglie. The jealous winemaker therefore devised a plan. That night he presented himself to the noble ladies dressed as women, with the intent of killing the young man. Only one thing went wrong: he forgot to cut his mustache and the feudal lord discovered the scam. Even today, we are not aware of the fate of the poor winemaker, some people think that he was killed by the guards and others who argue, instead, that to be forgiven he was forced to deliver to his master all the good wine he had in the cellars. So to remember those sad times, the "figuli" of Grottaglie thought of making this type of ceramic "doll". Today are produced the "dolls with moustaches", "dolls without moustaches" also called "Amazons". and also in the version "on horseback" to remember the escape of the groom from the castle, also used as candlesticks or bases for lamps and amphorae.

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