A tour of the slow design scene in Southern Italy


Solimene © Francesco Di Capua

Check out the five destinations we have chosen in five different regions that reveal the other, often unknown side of Italy’s design culture.

The Salone del Mobile will be welcoming visitors again from 5 to 10 September 2021, this time in an unprecedented "supersalone" version created by architect Stefano Boeri. Milan still has a few more weeks to go, but for those who can’t tear themselves away from the design scene even during the summer holidays we have selected a handful of destinations that reflect the cultural ferment that is taking place in Italy, especially in the South.

Our five destinations in five southern Italian locations tell the story of a distinctive approach we might call "slow design", that cherishes products made by hand and on a small scale embodying local traditions and history.

To help get under the skin of our destinations, we recommend reading Elogio alla lentezza (In Praise of Slowness) (2014) by the neurobiologist and author Lamberto Maffei, who urges a return to humanism and the placing of knowledge and skill in the service of a "good life".

The Ceramics District, Grottaglie, Puglia
Located in the province of Taranto, Grottaglie is the only Italian town with a district entirely devoted to producing ceramics; some of Grottaglie’s approximately fifty craftsmen's workshops are built inside actual caves. Visitors can watch each step in the crafting of a ceramic object and then purchase the finished product. Grottaglie is also home to the Ceramics Museum, situated in the south-eastern wing of the Episcopal Castle, originally the residence of the Archbishops of Taranto.

Pretziada Studio, Santadi, Sardinia
In the Sardinian language, pretziada means 'precious', the name given to a multidimensional project created through the encounter of Ivano Atzori, an artist Sardinian by origin but born and raised in Milan, and Kyre Chenven, a set designer from San Diego, California. In 2014, the couple settled in the southern Sardinian town of Sulcis and set up a creative practice that, among other things, reproposes new designs of classic pieces in limited editions. Their idea is as simple as it is ambitious: to connect local artisans with international designers, showcasing and innovating local crafts. Pretziada's physical showroom is located in Santadi, a village of 3,000 inhabitants, 45 kilometres from Cagliari.

Radicepura Garden Festival, Giarre, Sicilia
Uniting design with the environment, the Radicepura Garden Festival is a true expression of the Mediterranean culture. Giarre, nestled on the slopes of Mount Etna, is home to a horticultural park encompassing 15 gardens and 4 temporary installations filled with plants supplied by Piante Faro, a company that grows 800 plant species and produces over 5,000 varieties. The projects created for Radicepura combine landscaping, art and architecture to inspire ideas and action for protecting the landscape and the environment. The current setting is temporary and open to the public until 19 December 2021, when it will be further transformed by new projects and then completely refurbished for the next edition of the festival, which takes place every two years.

Fucina Madre, Matera, Basilicata
The second edition of Fucina Madre - Basilicata Crafts and Design Expo was held from 7 to 11 July 2021, and offered Italy’s design sector a sample of its unique ability to innovate in the wake of ancient traditions deeply rooted in the local culture. But besides its success as a temporary event, Fucina Madre showcased the little-known milieu of Lucanian design. The places, people, crafts, workshops, design studios, forms and narratives of Matera are highlighted in an original permanent itinerary. The artisans and designers of Basilicata also come together through the Basilicata Design Network, which aims to generate collaborative projects, as well as to promote, innovate, disseminate, create contacts and exchanges with other Italian and international realities.

Solimene Ceramics Factory, Vietri sul Mare, Campania
For over a century the Solimene family has made and decorated ceramics, ranging from tableware to floor and wall tiles, entirely by hand. The Solimene Ceramics factory at Vietri sul Mare, Campania, is the result of a meeting between Vincenzo Solimene and the visionary Italian architect, Paolo Soleri. The factory itself is the only one built by Soleri on Italian soil and represents a prime example of southern Italian industrial architecture, linked to the development of local craftsmanship in the Mezzogiorno. The building is also an open space venue that hosts exhibitions and training courses for the ceramicists of the future. A location that epitomises the multiplicity that lies behind the Made in Italy label.


Pretziada © Luca Rotondo


Radicepura © Alfio Garozzo


Solimene © Francesco Di Capua

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19 August 2021