The art of ceramics
In Mugello, the tradition of ceramic making goes back a very long way. At the beginning of the 16 th century Pierfrancesco de’ Medici founded a ceramics factory near Cafaggiolo in Barberino. The kiln and shop became functional in 1599. Other kilns were present near Cafaggiolo, at Trebbio Castle and perhaps Montecarelli.
They produced china in characteristic Medici style (like the plate that is preserved in the Bargello National Museum in Florence on which we find the words: “Made in Gagliano in 1551”)
As regards Cafaggiolo, there are documents confirming the presence of two kilns: one which produced china exclusively for the Palace, and the other which produced well known works of art that made use of a precious secret red colouring. The kiln was situated next to the Castle and built around a long portico where the ceramic was set out to dry. It was in the long building that stands to the left of the Castle and is presently occupied by stables, granary, and vat-room. Concrete proof of the ceramic factory’s abundant production was found in 1887 when Prince Borghese started to transform the kiln into the vat-room: numerous pieces of ceramic were found under the room next to the chapel. The renovation was continued in more recent times.
In Mugello at the beginning of the 20 th century the Chini family founded its ceramic production in Borgo San Lorenzo. Galileo Chini and Piero and Chino Chini founded the “San Lorenzo Furnace” and started to produce ceramics and glassworks with great success. Galileo Chini became one of the most important exponents of Art Nouveau in Italy, and in 1906 his fame as an artist reached the Far East.
Today the Chini family business has been bought out by Franco Pecchioli Ceramics of Florence, which creates important floor tiles and fittings.
The Chini family continues, however, to dedicate itself to the creation of small works of art in ceramic, for example vases, plates, jewel boxes and trays which are exhibited in their showroom in Borgo San Lorenzo near the workshop. Many other businesses in Mugello continue to create ceramics and carry on this ancient tradition.