by Samantha Melamend
Handcraft workshops, like Artistica, are what give a small city like Viterbo its charm. Artistica is a ceramic laboratory in the San Pellegrino district, the medieval quarter of Viterbo. I walked into Artistica and was entranced by the multitudes of ceramic artwork that embellishes every square inch of the shop. The lighting was dim, as to create a cozy atmosphere, and the shop owner, Cinzia, was working in the annex of the store in the laboratory. Cinzia is friendly and welcoming: After talking to Cinzia for just a few minutes, I almost felt as passionate as she did about ceramics and the significance of the medieval symbols on the tiles that covered the studio.
Artistica has been open for the past 20 years, but Cinzia has been studying and making art since she was young. Now, she handcrafts restorations of medieval symbols, like the golden leaf, and old pottery. Cinzia and her partner are the only people in Viterbo who know how to make zaffira, the type of medieval decoration expressed on all of the ceramic artwork throughout the shop. The shop works closely with the Museum of Ceramic in Viterbo, which holds original medieval ceramic artwork created with zaffira, in addition to ceramic museums in Florence and Faenza.
What makes this shop special are the ceramic lessons. Tourists and students usually partake in two hours lessons, but Cinzia also teaches the blind how to make pottery. It’s moving to see the sculptures made by the blind, which are showcased amid restorations of medieval ceramic bowls and tiles. I infer Cinzia is equally as proud as these sculptures as she is of her restorations.
Visiting Artistica, and meeting Cinzia, it’s one of a kind experience not to miss when visiting Viterbo.