Tag Archives: faenza


Once upon a time when the world was a different place, when travel meant discovering new people and places and life was more carefree, we took time off from a hectic round of sight-seeing in Ravenna, Faenza and Bologna and booked ourselves into a gorgeous hotel in one of Italy’s smart resorts.

The idea was to relax completely and recharge our batteries ready for another few days of treading the cobble stoned alleyways of the towns and villages of Emilia-Romagna – and it worked. Milano-Marittima, smart and ultra-cool, was so unlike our normal holiday destinations that we were able to put aside our pursuit of historical remains and sink into a few days of mindless enjoyment. Time to sit on the beach and read the novels we’d brought along for the ‘down-time’.

And you know what? If I ever get to travel again I’m going to do more of that!

Milano-Marittima is the beach resort to which the fashionistas of Milan take themselves for a spot of r and r. where among flower-filled roundabouts and tree-lined avenues they can be tempted by high-end shopping and lush living.

 It’s also perfectly placed for a week-end trip from the UK, flying into Bologna or Rimini and despite its de luxe lifestyle, surprisingly reasonable for a few days because, let’s face it, you are not going to be buying one-off haute couture from Dior or Armani or if you are, then you won’t worry about budgetting.

Milano-Marittima lies on the Adriatic coast, just 30 Kl. from Rimini and 90 Kl from Bologna.  Surrounded by lush green pinewoods, it combines the best of all possible worlds with sporting activities, a clean sandy beach, crazy nightlife, and fantastic shopping.  Cycling and walking paths through the pinewoods lead to the Natural Park, home to a rich wildlife and flora typical of coastal pinewoods.

Beach at Milano-Marittimo

Beaches are immaculate, as is usual in Italy, and as usual, the sands nearest the sea are free to everyone by law (a path from the esplanade to the beach area must be negotiable, again by law), and the rest of the beach is controlled by the hotels and other concessionaires.

 There are some magnificent hotels along the front and in the streets off the beach, and if you are a resident of one of these you will, in most cases, be offered a discount on the basic beach package.  This entitles you to two loungers, a table, an umbrella, use of a changing room and a locker.  Prices vary depending on how far from the sea you want to sit.  For instance, the Grand Hotel Gallia where I stayed charged €25 per day for the area nearest the sea.  This is for two people and although it may seem a lot, it isn’t if you work out what you get for this. 

There is usually a café or a snack bar on the site, the wooden walkway is swept regularly and kept clear of sand, and with a locker for your wallet and keys you can relax without worries.  If you are only there for a day, or if you fancy a spot that belongs to another owner, you will pay the full price.  And yes it’s a bit crowded, and yes you can overhear your neighbours, but for the denizens of Milano-Marittima, it is less about relaxing with a book and more about mingling and checking out la bella figura so join in and enjoy the fun.

Nightlife is exuberant, people spilling out of bars and restaurants, eating al fresco some of the best food in the area and generally enjoying life.  Believe me, it’s good.

Tearing yourself away from the beach, the shopping or window-shopping in Milano-Marittima is almost equal to that of Milano itself, the opportunities ranging from glamourous boutiques to shops that are very much on trend.   Most of the top fashion houses have outlets on the wide avenues of the town and attract as many lookers as they do buyers, who come to enjoy the art of window dressing which, as in most of Italy’s towns and cities, is a delight in itself. 

There is nothing in the way of historical monuments to interrupt the relaxation in Milano-Marittima, but it is well placed for sight-seeing in the nearby town of Cervia, famous as the repository of the precious salt but visited nowadays for its palaces, churches and the castle; Ravenna for the glorious Byzantine mosaics housed in 5th and 6th century perfectly preserved buildings; and Faenza for the medieval streets and alleys of the town, its piazzas and palaces, and the ceramic workshops and factories where they produce the world-famous Majolica items.

Magnificent Mosaics at Ravenna, Faenza, Dante’s Tomb, I Populi

If you want nothing to do and to do it in comfort and style, I can’t recommend Milano-Marittima enough, and the Grand Hotel Gallia for peace and tranquillity in the midst of a busy town plus outstanding cuisine.

Majolica – Made in Faenza, Italy

Becky’s lovely Tavira vase post reminded me of the beautiful ceramics we saw a few years ago on a trip to Faenza in Italy, the town between Bologna and Florence which produces work of great originality from old, traditional, designs and occasional new designs.  These ceramics go by different names, depending on who is speaking about them: sometimes they are called Majolica ware, and sometimes they are called Faience, the French word for the ceramic, and the word from which the town derives its name.


Faenza has been a flourishing city from the 2nd century AD; from the 11th century it started to really expand and grow and by the Renaissance period it had reached its peak, thanks to good relations with nearby Florence, the centre of Italian artistic life.  The city we see today with fine Renaissance architecture and Neo-classical monuments is a testament to this period of prosperity and growth.  P1090225









Faenza majolica was born here because the land was rich in the type of clay needed for the production of fine pottery and because the inhabitants were able to mould the clay into beautiful objects.  Over the years the craftsmen absorbed the knowledge flowing from Florence and became experts in shape and line as they perfected the pottery and became artists.

Crowns, crowns and more crowns - a very popular subject
Crowns are one of the most popular objects and are very traditional

Majolica is terracotta clay, glazed with powder and water which makes the object waterproof and gives it a high gloss surface on which traditional designs are painted.  Sometimes the object is fired twice to give it strength and sometimes it is baked in a plaster cast which is then broken to expose the piece.

Crowns awaiting embellishment

The designs are etched on to the glaze, or sometimes the object is covered in paper on which pin-pricks are made, after which black coal-dust is used to stamp the lines through the pin-pricks – a form of stencilling.  Precious metals are also used and this makes the object more expensive, of course, as gold, silver and platinum need 3 firings and to be heated to 750 degrees.

Birthing set - for the new mother after baby is born
This set is given to a woman when she gives birth. It is for her first meal and includes a soup-bowl, egg-cups, plates, teapot etc.

One of the expert painters works on a design










Ceramic Plaque on Wall in Faenza

This is the sign for the oldest workshop in Faenza

Crowns are a very popular subject

In September and October international contemporary and classical ceramic art events draw majolica amateurs, collectors and artists to Faenza from all over the world.

This 'silver' decoration is pure platinum
The ‘silver’ stripe is actually platinum and the vase was priced at €1,400.

The ceramics alone make the trip to Faenza worthwhile and there are over 50 workshops most of which welcome visitors – look for the signs outside the shops (see one above).

However, Faenza is also a town of outstanding artistic and architectural features, two beautiful squares in Renaissance style, elegant arcaded streets, palaces, a 15th-century cathedral and an 18th-century theatre add to the aesthetic enjoyment while the food is superb.

Not to be missed:   The magnificent Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza has some of the world’s most beautiful pieces of majolica from every epoch and from all over the world, including a section dedicated to pottery from the Renaissance period.

A very expensive group of ceramics
Most items here are expensive.  For example,  the animal skin ceramic tea set was €400.


A ‘Majolica line’ can be traced from Faenza to the UK, through the centuries right up to the nineteenth when the technique of tin and lead glazing was further developed in London and Brighton before moving to Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.   Herbert Minton’s porcelain factory in Stoke on Trent was already quite famous when, Leon Arnoux, the great French ceramic chemist joined it in 1841 to help regenerate the production of lead-glazed pottery based on Renaissance designs.

These early pieces were destined for English gardens as the lead glaze protected urns, fountains, garden seats and ornaments from the English weather.  Minton then used the same process for their fast-growing trade in culinary dishes, each piece descriptive of the food that would be served on it, oyster plates, fish platters crab, lobster and sardine boxes,  and game dishes showing rabbit, partridge, pheasant and quail.

(I have seen references to the effect that the word Majolica refers to the fact that the goods were first exported to Majorca and then re-imported,  It seems plausible but I haven’t been able to ascertain that this is, in fact, where the word came from).


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