Cocksure in Orvieto

July 3, 2012 / Local Interest
Orvieto, Umbria

One could write odes to the Orvieto roosters, those hand painted ceramic pitchers that prance across the shelves of most ceramic shops in Orvieto. You can find just about any color and design to delight the eye. It is one of the most practical of gifts, guaranteed to find many uses: a small one for cream, medium size for juice or milk and a larger for a liter of wine.

Perched atop a giant mound of tufo created by an ancient volcano, Orvieto is one of the most colorful towns in Umbria. Famous for its glorious Duomo whose fa├žade of thousands of glass mosaics glitter in the sun, there are also tens of dozens of ceramic shops that lend color to each little street or vicolo. There are traditional and modern takes on hand painted ceramics and you can watch artisans at their craft in some studios. Take the time to visit several and you will be amazed at their workmanship. Wander around making friends with these cheerful creatures and you will become cocksure in Orvieto!

Colleen Simpson

by Colleen Simpson

Colleen followed a long-held dream and made a home in Piegaro, which is a pristine medieval glass-making village south of Lago Trasimeno in Umbria. She is the innkeeper at

14 Responses to “Cocksure in Orvieto”

  1. Evanne

    Great note, Colleen. We hope to meet you one day. We’re mightily impressed with the ceramics for sale at Giacomini, located diagonally across the square from the Duomo. Chiara holds court there, as if she’s fluffing here feathers, but the designs here are worthy of a crowing.

  2. Herb Klinker

    Enjoyed your article. Say “hello” to Tom for me!

  3. We have visited Orvieto several times. Some of our most treasured Italian purchases are the gorgeous hand-painted plates from a little store in the piazza behind the duomo, Giacomini. A family business, they are charming and the shipping home was flawless. We use these dishes everyday for any special pasta courses.

  4. Gian Banchero

    As the cement gnome made it’s appearance about fifteen years ago now Il Gallo (the rooster) seems to have bought a ticket to parts of the world and here, the San Francisco Bay Area (California); the little fellow has been seen in Italian restaurants, festivals, and even a Chinese restaurant or two. I now want to have one on my kitchen table, what a great little buddy to wake up to and share the morning cup of coffee with. Thank you Colleen, your article and photos gave me a big smile.

    • Kansas-Kate

      Chuck Williams (of Williams Sonoma fame) probably should get credit for making the rooster/chicken pitcher popular in the US. He has been importing them from Italy and selling them here for 25 or 30 years.

  5. Paula (Giangreco) Cullison

    Colleen, Grazie Mille for the memories. While traveling in Italy (for one month)with our daughter a few years ago, I happened upon the beautiful rooster pitchers in Orvieto where we stayed for a few nights. Since we travel ‘light’, I took a photo of Pamela holding one of the pitchers. I later purchsed one in Phoenix, as a surprise for her. She was delighted :-)

  6. Mairin O'Mahony

    Gian, you can find a variety of roosters and other Italian ceramics at Biordi in San Francisco, just around the corner on Columbus from the National Shrine of St. Francis and the replica of the Porziuncola.

  7. Your piece brought a smile to my face. I spent a week in Orvieto and a rooster awakened me each morning. My sister, who was with me, bought me a ceramic rooster as a memento. He sits in my kitchen along with other ceramic treasures I’ve brought back from my travels through Italy.
    Thank you for the smile & the memory.

  8. Colleen Simpson

    Wonderful Readers! Thanks for the wonderful response and comments to my tribute to the little roosters of Orvieto. I too love Giacomini! I just returned from a tour with guests in Orvieto and should write a note about the studio of Giacomini….so much to write about. If any of you want to read my “Ode to an Orvieto Pitcher” about the little guy who daily prances across my kitchen send me an email at my website :-) Herb: Tom says “ciao” right back and was so happy to meet you in Piegaro!

  9. Bob Lemon

    The original rooster pitchers came from Deruta rather than
    Orvieto. Moreover, I believe they were especially popular with wealthy tourists because they were the “official table top pitcher” at the Hasseler Bad Hotel in Rome.

    • Kansas-Kate

      That’s Chuck Williams’ story of how he “discovered” and began importing them.

      However, the history –or at least legend– of roosters and Italian ceramics is said go to back to the Medici vs Pazzi era.

  10. Colleen Simpson

    Thanks Bob. Yes, I have a ceramist friend in Deruta and have seen them there, but my little guy called to me from a shelf in Orvieto where many of his friends now sit waiting for homes. Did not know about the Hasseler Bad Hotel though. Interesting that wealthy tourists liked them so much for they are a humbe little bird I think.


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