VideoNote: Belpensiero (Beautiful Thoughts)

February 25, 2014 / Art & Archaeology
San Lorenzello, Campania


The famous tiles of Naples, Amalfi, Vietri and Sorrento were fruit of the nostalgia of the Aragonese King Alfonso il Magnanimo, who longed for the Moorish tiles of his home in Spain and who instituted a series of schools in the art of majolica in 1450, creating a tradition that has continued to this day.

Detail of floor tiles by Nicola Giustiniani
One of the rare existing floor tiles by Maestro Nicola Giustiniani

The ceramics of San Lorenzello and Cerreto Sannita, though lesser-known and of less noble extraction, have a richer and more dramatic history. The presence of clay pits along with the motive power of the Titerno river, made this area of the Sannio a center for the production of pottery as far back as the Middle Ages.

Public Square of S. Lorenzello

Interestingly, development was spurred by the devastating earthquake of 1688 that killed over 4000 people and virtually erased Cerreto Sannita from the map. With hard work and illuminated leadership the feudal landlord Marzio Carafa together with the bishop of Cerreto, Giovanni Battista de Bellis, managed to rebuild the town, offering tax exemption to those ceramists who would come and rebuild the ovens. Production was temporarily transferred to San Lorenzello and the arrival of talented professionals from Naples meant that the quality of the products themselves jumped by leaps and bounds.

One such expert was Antonio Giustiniani who settled in San Lorenzello and married a local girl. His son Nicola, an extraordinarily talented ceramist, worked in the family’s atellier, but at the age of twenty decided to return to Naples to open his own majolica factory. He became renowned throughout Europe for his mastery and originality of design, which in turn earned him the name of Belpensiero.

The work you see here are by contemporary ceramist Elvio Sagnella, inspired by and dedicated to the work of Nicola Giustiniani.



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Barbara Goldfield

by Barbara Goldfield

Owner of “Savour The Sannio”,, a travel consultancy for central and southern Italy.

8 Responses to “VideoNote: Belpensiero (Beautiful Thoughts)”

  1. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    So enjoyed this! Such rich images and the ease of watching the making process on the excellent video. Was also reassured at how easy it was to contribute a little dosh to Italian Notebook which I have been wanting to do!

  2. Miriam Raubvogel

    These gems make my day! Every thing Italian is a thing of beauty.thank you.m

  3. Rosemary

    Truly enjoyed your note Barbara! We lived in Vietri sul Mare and loved looking in all the wonderful shops there. And in Sicily, going to Caltagirone was always a treat. And of course in Umbria, Deruta was a must for our visitors! I didn’t know about this part of the Sannio – where my ancestors came from, so this was a delicious find! Grazie! – Rosemary

  4. The video makes it so more real. Thank you for bringing us right into the workshop to take in the process and the beautiful results.

  5. What a wonderful story … We have some of their marvelous ceramica as well as from Solimene, Vietri Sul Mare. Memories of La Bella L’Italia at every meal.
    Thanks, Suzanne and Ron

  6. Joan Schmelzle

    Once again I received the “error encountered when loading video” when going to the webpage. I closed AOL and opened Internet Explorer so I was able to see the videonote and the beautiful work. However, the problem seems stange to me because Internet Exploerer is what is the browser aol uses.

    • GB

      Sorry to hear the problem persists, Joan. Must be something that keeps IE, AOL, and Vimeo from playing nice. Have you tried to use chrome or firefox instead of internet explorer? Might be interesting to see if the problem still crops up using one of those with AOL..

      • Marie Giacalone

        You are right, GB. I had problems watching videos with IE so frequently that I finally made Firefox my default browser. Chrome also works w/o difficulties. By the way, thank you for these videos- I am really enjoying them!


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