The pretty stone hill town of Deruta lies in the central heart of Umbria, between Rome and Florence. At first glance it looks like any other medieval town dotting the countryside. But when you enter through the ancient gates you will see that this hamlet is distinct: its sole industry is ceramics. There are nearly two hundred workshops and stores, along with a school for Ceramic Arts and a Ceramics Museum, dedicated to Deruta's thriving artistic tradition.
The particular type of ceramic-ware found throughout Italy and popularized in Deruta is said to have originated from the Spanish island of Majorca and imported to Italy by traveling merchants. It became known as Majolica. The Moorish design influences are retained even today in many traditional patterns.
Deruta's rise as an artisan town was due in part to its location on the Tiber, where there are natural clay deposits. During the Renaissance, Deruta flourished and became Italy's principle center for Majolica. Designs that were popularized during that period are still being produced today, along with each workshop's own contemporary signature designs. All of the patterns are brilliantly colored, highly decorative, hand-painted masterpieces.
The origins of Deruta remain partly obscure. It was a strategic point between Perugia and Todi, as witnessed by the fortified castle. In the thirteenth century, Deruta had its own constitution. In the second half of 1400s, many of the inhabitants of the town were killed by plague. During the Salt War (1540), Deruta, which had aligned itself against the Pope, suffered sacks and devastation. When the Papal States subdued Perugia, Deruta also enjoyed a long period of peace. During this period the manufacture of ceramics saw its peak.
Enter the old town of Deruta through Porta San Michele and you'll immediately see evidence of old furnaces. The sober Romanesque-Gothic church of Sant'Arcangelo overlooks Piazza Biordo Michelotti. Opposite the piazza is the polygonal fountain, dating from 1848. Piazza dei Consoli, where the Palazzetto Municipale is located, dates back to 1300, and now houses various archeological finds from the Neolithic and Etruscan times.
The palace also houses the Art Gallery and the Museum of Ceramics, with an important collection of paintings from the churches of San Francesco, Sant'Antonio, and the hospital of San Giacomo. There are paintings by artistis like Alunno, Baciccio, Stendardo, Amorosi, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo and Guido Reni. The Museum also offers magnificent ceramic works dating between through the centuries.
Opposite the Town Hall is the Gothic church of San Francesco with interesting interiors. Close to the church is the former Franciscan convent with an ancient cloister. Down the narrow Via Mastro Giorgio is the church of Sant'Antonio, which preserves significant frescoes by Bartolomeo and Gian Battista Caporali.
At the Piazza Cavour is the little church of Madonna del Divino Amore, today known as the Madonna of Cerasa. Along the Via Tiberina you’ll come across the little church of Madonna delle Piagge built in 1601, whose facade is adorned with beautiful majolica tiles. Near this church is visitable an interesting museum of ceramics.
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