Of the basic Tuscan elements, earth is perhaps
the most dominant and apparent in Tuscan society. Indeed, the rich Tuscan
clay has been incorporated in some way into every building across the region.
From the characteristic terracotta rooftops down to the floor, Tuscany is
thoroughly infused with the element of earth.
Terracotta- meaning earth (terra) that is fired
or baked (cotta), has been used for centuries in Tuscany, dating back to the
Etruscans who used the clay for pottery and building.
Some examples of
their artistic work are still available for viewing, and have been used by
artisans for centuries as inspiration.
heart of the ancient Italian pottery industry was in a town near Florence. Remarkably, the
terracotta ovens and kilns have been in production almost continuously since the
times of the Etruscans. Considered by many to be the finest terracotta in
Tuscany, the skilled artisans reproduce many of the ancient designs out of a
unique clay rich in limestone. The fired clay is extremely durable and
resistant to the elements.
This durability, economical cost, and ease of
transport made clay tiles and bricks an attractive building material for ancient
Tuscans. Entire cities, such as Siena, are comprised mainly of brick, as
well as numerous casa colonica (Italian farmhouses) dotting the rolling
countryside. Check out
Ancient Tuscan Brick Farmhouse, to see a Florentine home constructed of
brick and terracotta.
A 13th century Tuscan farmhouse features
ancient brick walls and terracotta clay roof tiles.
Click on picture for rental details.
How is the earth element used in
modern Tuscan design and decorating?
Terracotta has played an
important role especially in the Tuscan kitchen, where olive oil and wine have
been stored in clay vessels for centuries. The terracotta protects the
olive oil from heat and light, which reduces spoilage.
from the same clay as terracotta, another main staple of most Tuscan kitchens is
the beautiful tin glazed and hand painted ceramics known as majolica.
Commonly decorated in brilliant blues, greens, yellows, and oranges these lovely
pieces are beautifully and practically used for storage, on the table as
dinnerware, and as decorative art. To see
more Italian ceramics, click here.
Since the about the fifteenth century, Tuscany has been producing a wide
variety of majolica items, from beautiful and utilitarian plates to floor
tiles. Although majolica was once exclusive and
expensive to own, it is now commonplace to find this beloved folk art in and
around the homes of Tuscany.
of the superior durability of the Tuscan terracotta, the decorative clay pots,
window boxes, statues and orcio (pitchers) are a favorite in Tuscan gardens.
Filled with a wide variety of brightly colored flowers, the decorative
containers are found across the countryside adorning windowsills, courtyards,
and loggias, and bring a welcome splash of outdoor cheer to virtually any space.
Perfectly infused in the Tuscan lifestyle, the
ever-present element of earth is testimony to the centuries old love affair
between the people of Tuscany, and their environment.
For more information on Tuscan decorating
and employing the Tuscan design style in your home, please visit the Tuscan
Decorating Center. Be sure to bookmark the
Tuscan Design Center, and
check back regularly for updates. We are always adding valuable
tips and advice for decorating your home in Tuscan style.
This large terracotta urn, now being
used in a country garden in Rome, was once used to store olive oil.
Now a main staple of any Italian
kitchen, this hand crafted majolica biscotti jar from Italy is
crafted in the centuries old tradition.
A Tuscan stone bench features classic
Geraniums in vividly colored terracotta pots.