Voilà, It’s Majolica! 

Santo Stefano di Camastra is one of Sicily’s ceramics centers. There is an entire street of the town lined with ceramics shops that are filled with majolica ceramics (maiolica in Italian). Majolica describes a technique of decorating earthenware (ceramics made with red clay, AKA bisque or biscuit) that has been fired at a relatively low…

Seeking Aphrodite, Goddess of Love

In ancient Sicily, Aphrodite was one of the most venerated Greek goddesses. The goddess of love, beauty, and pleasure, she was especially important in western Sicily, where in Erice, her temple–known since Roman times as the Temple of Venus (her Roman name)–was a destination of pilgrims for centuries. Those seeking romance and success with love…

A Bride and A Drum 

When I learn how old an object like this vase from Sicily is, it puts things into perspective. I was thrilled to see this in person at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York a couple of weeks ago. Dated to have been made between 300 and 200 B.C.E., this polychrome terracotta jar associated…

One with the Tiles

Here I am, one with the tiles of Caltagirone’s Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, which was built in 1609 to connect the old lower town to the new upper town. Since 1954, each of its 142 steps was decorated with a unique design of colorful, handcrafted majolica ceramic tile, a craft for which the…

A Genius Feat 

If you are into art, architecture, and ceramics, Le Stanze al Genio (The Rooms to the Genius) is for you. This home-museum features a collection of majolica ceramic floor tiles sporting designs from Naples and Sicily that were produced from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century. You must…

Persephone’s Guidance 

As the seasons change where I live in the northeastern United States, and the days are darker longer, I turn to Persephone for assistance during the transition to winter. Part of the “Queen of the Underworld’s” responsibilities, once she descends into Hades each autumn, is the role of psychopomp–a guide for new souls crossing over;…