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10 Italian Arts & Crafts - How to See and Experience Them

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Colorful Italian artisan ceramic plates

Colorful artisan ceramic plates found in Southern Italy

Italy is renowned for its artisans who use traditional techniques that turn craftwork into artistry. From colorful to creative, authentic to enticing, artisan crafts capture the essence of Italian heritage and carry the proud legacy of the past into the future. Use this list to explore where you can find them and how you can experience them during your trip.

Murano Glass

Beautiful glass ball being made by a glass blower

Artisan ghttps://res.cloudinary.com/zicasso/image/upload/c_fill,e_sharpen:75,h_682,q_auto:good,w_1024/v1/Italy/Italy-Southern-Colorful-Ceramics-full.jpglass blower making a Murano glass ball

Murano glass is one of the most famous Italian products that has ever been created, with a history that dates back nearly a millennium. Visitors flock to the Venetian Lagoon to visit the famed island turned into a glass-production center after the Doge ordered all glassblowers off Venice's main island due to fears of fires from the kilns.

Murano glassblowers continue the traditions of the artistic masters that brought fortune to the Venetian Lagoon and elevated their families' importance to the status of near-nobility. Some of the most influential brands of glass are still produced in their historic factories on Murano, such as Venini, Barovier and Tso, Pauly, and Seguso.

Showrooms across the island of Murano provide displays of artists' fascinating work, while the working studios allow visitors to see the stunning techniques of the artisan glassblowers in action. Your studio visit can also offer the chance for a hands-on workshop taught by a local artist. You and your instructor can produce a small souvenir in the glass arts, such as a necklace, bracelet, or delicate mosaic complete with rainbow hues.

Where to Visit: Murano (Venice)

Ceramics/Pottery

Caltagirone artistan painting handmade ceramic vase

Ceramic vase being decorated by a local artisan in Caltagirone, Italy

Pottery and ceramics have a rich history that dates back over two millennia to the Etruscans in Central and Northern Italy and the Phoenician and Greek settlers in Southern Italy and Sicily. Crafters continue to produce pots, jugs, and earthenware vessels in the style of their regional heritage, recreating the classic shapes and colors with traditional techniques while meeting the aesthetics of contemporary society.

When meeting different artisans, you can have the chance to shape your very own piece after learning about the heritage of the trade on the Italian Peninsula and the particular history of the studio that you are visiting. Your guide can walk you through making a bowl, plate, cup, or vase following the region's customary techniques.

It is easy to find small shops across the regions of Italy showcasing the ceramic or pottery craftsmanship for which the area is known. For a more hands-on experience, you could enjoy a ceramics or pottery workshop to learn about the art, history, and heritage of the craft specific to each region and connected to the depths of Italian roots from Tuscany to Basilicata, Abruzzo to the Amalfi Coast.

Where to Visit: Tuscany |  Abruzzo | Calderone | Umbria | Basilicata | Amalfi Coast

Trompe l’Oeil Paintings

Trompe l’Oeil Painting in Sorrento, Italy

Trompe l’Oeil Painting in Sorrento, Italy

The illusion of three-dimensional objects in art adds unique layers of storytelling to paintings featured across Italy with a small batch of artisans who continue to produce works in this field. Some painters create small murals and decorative doors, while others choose to decorate plates and glassware.

Artists may also take commissions, using the technique to create three-dimensional still life paintings in their patron’s home. The distinct quality of the painting, and the focus on the aesthetic, ensures that each piece will be unique, with details crafted to your personal preference.

For a more in-depth experience, you could opt to learn the technique by crafting a frame or ornament, forever cherishing the practical application of mixing shades and working with light and shadow for complexity in your future artwork.

Where to Visit: Rome | Pompeii | Brenta Canal | Mantua | Genova

Shoes

Italian cobbler making luxury leather shoes

Italian cobbler making luxury leather shoes

Italian cobblers have always met the demands of their clientele with superior quality and refined taste. Cobblers in Italy continue to follow the traditions of their trade with hands-on experience that blends with modern technology. Time with a cobbler in Italy will provide insight into the process and history of Italian craftsmanship, including the ways shoemakers have mastered their skills over time.

The region of Campania is known for artisan crafts like cobbling while the leather-goods of Tuscany include the sensational art of making shoes. Artisan craftspeople in Lombardy highlight pride, quality, and individuality in their work that focuses on the ways their particular aesthetic combines tradition and fashion-forward ideas in the cobbling industry.

By emphasizing quality and style, your shoemaking experience in Italy will bring you more knowledge of the industry in Italy and can also provide you with a pair of luxury Italian shoes to take home with you. As crafting shoes is an intricate process that takes time to learn, let alone master, there are not many demonstrations that offer a hands-on experience.

If learning to cobble shoes is of interest to you, there are plenty of courses across Italy that offer insight into mastering the artisan tradition of Italian shoemaking with each class taught by a local artisan. Various regions across Italy host famous artisan cobblers that transform shoes into artwork such as in Le Marche along the “Shoe Valley,” as well as a resurgence of masters in Venice and Rome.

Where to Visit: Le Marche | Florence | Campania | Tuscany

Textiles

Tailor making a custom suit jacket

Tailor working on a custom suit jacket

Learn more about how designers take inspiration from their surroundings during a textiles tour and workshop that will introduce you to how weavers create stunning patterns with intricate attention to their craft. Textiles add to Italy’s history by showcasing the unique garments representing the various eras of Italian culture, politics and shifting economic policies to the different social and economic classes.

Hand-woven pieces can include tablecloths and cushion covers, while pieces shaped with a loom grow the garment into stunning clothes and tapestries. Visiting a studio for a day allows you to observe the artisans at work and participate in a beginner’s workshop. Studios across Italy offer courses that last up to six weeks but can also provide the basics of making textiles with a three-day workshop.

Instead of a course in tapestries or weaving, you could opt to discover the rich history of textiles by visiting specific shops, warehouses, or factories known for producing elegant laces to fine suits. You can find hand-dyed patterns, sophisticated styles for cold weather, and antique looming dating back to the Renaissance.

Where to Visit: Emilia-Romagna | Surano | Basilicata | Valle d’Aosta | Solomeo | Veneto

Stained Glass of Italy

Florence Italy Basilica of Santa Croce stained glass windows

Stained glass windows of the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy

The endless number of churches, basilicas, and cathedrals in Italy could very well inspire you to craft your own stained-glass windows. With traditions that date back to stories told by Pliny the Elder, Phoenician sailors discovered the technique by accident after a shipwreck. Romans were glazing glass into windows by the 1st century AD and began using blowing techniques to mold the glass. The oldest known examples of multiple pieces of colored glass in windows date back to St. Paul’s Monastery in England in 686 AD.

While a stained-glass workshop might be similar to a glass blowing demonstration, the techniques and results are far different. Artisan studios across Italy produce hand-painted stained-glass windows for cathedrals and monuments around the world by blending chemistry and art to shape the colorful glass.

A guided visit through any workshop will highlight how a stained-glass artisan utilizes old and new techniques to create the classic look of radiant decorations with masterful alchemy. A full day’s workshop and even longer courses can elaborate on the unique methods used to paint glass and produce the colorful stained glass works that decorate the towns and cities across Italy.

Where to Visit: Mondaino | Milan | Florence | Puglia

Jewelry

Jeweler working on traditional silver ring in Florence, Italy

Artisan jeweler making a silver ring in Florence, Italy

Jewelry in Italy is inspired by the microclimates that support a huge coral reef to splendors of the Mediterranean Sea, gold shaped by the hills of Umbria to personalized designs in Abruzzo. The craft dates back beyond ancient Rome with functions touching on ancient Greeks and Etruscans who settled on the peninsula.

Italy and high-fashion go hand-in-hand, which is why jewelry workshops that are offered around the peninsula provide fabulous insight into the design process. One of the most notable costume jewelers in the world is the Florentine designer, Angela Caputi, who utilizes modern style with traditional handmade craftsmanship to produce fashion-forward statements in a bedazzling showroom. The workshop is located in the artisan district of the Oltrarno.

Artisan jewelers allow the value of their art to shine through superb craftsmanship and the unique connection to ancient regional history. A visit to a workshop along with the majority of jewelry design studios in Italy provide access to the framework of past productions as they map size, color, and a number of beads per piece to create one-of-a-kind selections.

The intricacies of jewelry make a one-day workshop challenging, but if you wish to indulge in an intensive hands-on course, there are two-day, three-day, and even five-day courses along with classes that last up to three months with a single student-to-teacher ratio, providing the best techniques, tools, and materials Italy has to offer.

Where to Visit: Florence | Sardinia | Abruzzo | Umbria | Sciacca

Paper of Italy

Detail of purple marbled Florentine paper

Florentine marbled paper

The importance of paper remains an integral part of Italy within a variety of specific regions. Paper has an illustrious and overlooked history that dates back to 2nd-century China and did not reach Europe until after the crusades in 1085, eventually leading to the invention of the printing press in 1493. The art of papier-mâché in Italy dates back to the 17th century with notable artisans.

Small, family-run workshops continue to stick with their heritage-making, marbled paper, while other artisans utilize papermaking for crafts such as making masks. Customary techniques remain popular with local artisans to craft unique designs from jewelry boxes, shape handbags out of marbled paper, or design exquisite handmade journals.

Paper workshops in Italy provide a hands-on experience dedicated to the art of restoring antique prints and books with a class that takes you behind the scenes of making paper. Your artisan instructor will share traditional techniques to conserve and restore old prints developed over a half-millennium ago. You can also learn about the different methods of making fine paper while listening to fascinating anecdotes about the history of the trade.

Where to Visit: Tuscany | Venice | Fabriano

Woodwork

Wood crafter tools and workshop

Wood crafter workshop and tools of the trade

The craftspeople of Italy are known for their skills and diligence demonstrated through remarkable wood carvings. Crafted throughout the various regions across the country, diverse heritage is on display from religious artwork to cabinet making, daily utensils to finely grained bowls.

Crafers display different techniques and woodcarving methods passed down through the centuries. Artisan woodworkers shave away bark to transform their tools that have been taken from the landscape into art.

Ornamentation connects with tradition while also providing a touch of each aristan’s own unique aesthetic that showcases the carver’s talent. Handmade cupboards, dressers, craft chests, chopping boards, and ceremonial masks are a delight to explore. Other artisans may hone their techniques to make each piece shine with color, grain pattern, and a unique luster, such as the famous Stradivarius violin.

Where to Visit: Sardinia | Molise | Milan | Liguria | Basilicata

Mosaics

Mosaic-lined medieval La Martorana Church

Mosaics. in La Martorana Church in Palermo, Italy

The ancient tradition of mosaics has been part of the artistic framework of the Italian peninsula since the Greeks arrived in the 8th century BC, continuing into the Roman and Byzantine empires. The customs of crafting fantastic images formed by pieces of broken stone or glass has continued through the ages, with artists crafting gorgeous, elaborate, and captivating works by hand.

Mosaics showcase the intersection of ancient art and contemporary aesthetic while also representing finer details of work like patience and an eye for intricate detail. Different regions in Italy carry on the unique aesthetics from the various cultures who pursued mosaic arts.

The crafts of Emilia-Romagna display small pieces of broken stone or metals and create the antique medium offering a revitalized, fresh look to the modern world. The artisan craft takes inspiration from the past with traditions highlighted by the surroundings of gilded, religious art that adorn church facades and naves in Ravenna.

For the best introduction to mosaics in Italy, you can uncover the exceptional art form preserved in idyllic churches or partake in a mosaic workshop. A workshop could take more than one day as you learn how to use the tools, place the pieces, and let the work dry to take a piece inspired by history home with you while engaging with a part of Italian heritage. Visit a studio for a private lesson or find elegant collections; a private tour can have you experience the preserved history of Italy’s woodworking mastery.

Where to Visit: Ravenna | Rome | Sienna | Palermo

More Travel Information & Tips

Sunset over Arno river and Florence Cathedral in Italy

Florence, Italy

Arts and crafts in Italy are a source of innovation that embody an historic spirit. Whether on a romantic getaway or a culinary adventure tour, an Italy travel specialist has local knowledge and an ability to personalize your tour to your tastes. Find more inspiration for your perfect vacation with the Italy Travel Guide. If you want to plan an Italy trip, you can speak with an Italy travel expert for by filling out a Trip Request Form or by calling 1-888-265-9707.

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