The Ceramicist of Calvello

January 13, 2016 / Local Interest
Calvello, Basilicata

Rocco Gallicchio is a soft-spoken guy. His eyes flit embarrassedly when paid a compliment and his hands seem to have permanently taken on the dusty-white hue of the clay that they work with daily.

Rocco is one of just a few remaining ceramicists in a town that once brimmed with them. He ardently carries on, hoping to revive the fires of the dormant kilns and renew Calvello’s once-glorious reputation as a center of southern Italy’s ceramic trade.

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Calvello lies in a high valley in the middle of Basilicata, a mountainous region wedged between Puglia and Calabria. Since the Middle Ages, ceramics constituted a mainstay of Calvello’s economy, the craft purportedly transported here by Benedictine monks. The Calvello artisans developed their own unique style that is still employed by the purist Rocco.

Rocco does everything by hand. He collects the clay from a nearby source, which he keeps secret. He throws the clay by hand, molding it into lovely, rustic objects, everything is created according to traditional methods. He gathers minerals, roots, and berries to make the paints he uses. He makes his own brushes from goat hair.

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The bird is a Calvello traditional element
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300-year old tiles next to newly made tiles by Rocco

The bird is a recurring theme, as it has been for centuries in Calvello. Rocco refuses mass production methods, preferring that each piece have the natural, slight variations that are inevitable in handmade products. His products speak of Old World quality, artisan pride, and rustic charm.

He labors on in this ancient craft, creating a name for himself but also hoping to interest some of Calvello’s youth into the trade. He has recreated ancient patterns for monasteries and provided the wedding favors for Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, when she wed in her ancestral town of Bernalda, Basilicata.

Pay a visit to Rocco’s shop and take home a unique piece of Basilicata tradition.

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Valerie Schneider

by Valerie Fortney- Schneider

Through her company My Bella Basilicata Valerie uses her tourism industry experience to offer travel planning and on-site genealogy research in the Basilicata region. She is a freelance writer with magazine and website articles to her credit, adores cappuccino, and is an enthusiastic cook.

Valerie Fortney-Schneider

13 Responses to “The Ceramicist of Calvello”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    Sig. Gallicchio a well know vasaio of the area is not only authentic in technique, but also authentic in appearance…the rugged handsomeness of ancient men of Etruscan ancestry

    Reply
  2. It is beautiful work. I, and I am sure others would be interested in knowing if his work can be purchased and shipped, if not to the USA then to places in Europe. They are unique and certainly being able to sell outside of his shop would help improve the visibility and the economy. Maybe even helping entice a younger generation to take up the craft.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Bulfamante

    What gift and treasure, Rocco, keep up the your beautiful creations. Perhaps some young folks will look to you as their mentor.

    Reply
  4. Alex Cassuto

    Wonderful aristic work. Hope we can get there on our next trip to Basilicata. We shop for ceramics wherever we can in Italy.

    Reply
  5. Geraldine O'Sullivan

    Hi Valerie,
    I very much enjoyed reading your article. I am planning on traveling to Puglia in the Spring, so for sure I will visit Rocco.
    As a side question, I see you are a language student. I am exploring some language schools in the Puglia vicinity. I wonder had you heard of and maybe your approval of L’acanto or Casa di Puglia? Any input would be appreciated. Thank you.

    Best Regards,
    Geraldine

    Reply
    • Valerie Schneider

      Hi Geraldine, Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and hope you’ll make it to Basilicata as part of your Puglia trip. As far as being a student, it’s in the perpetual sense rather than school sense. I’m constantly trying to improve my language skills! :) Sorry that I’m not familiar with those schools, though Perugia is a lovely place to study!

      Reply
    • Nancy Cullerton

      Buongiorno, Posso acquistara la tua ceramichi? Thank you, Nancy Cullerton

      Reply

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