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Tiles in Sicily, full of colour and light

Posted by Suzanne Turrisi on 03 Jul 2020



An Arab legacy of glazed colour

Colourful, glazed and often intricately decorated with botanical images, curves and at times geometric form Sicilian majolica tiles are really dazzling.

Sicily has a long history of pottery making spanning thousands of years but the 'glazed polychromatic colours -particularly blues, greens and yellows' were introduced to Sicilian craftsmen by the Arabs (Insight Guides -Sicily 2013). This was probably early 9th century, at the beginning of  Sicily's period under Arab rule.

These glazed colours are an admired part of Sicilian floors, interiors, stairways and pottery. They are instantly recognisable as being Sicilian.


Sicilian light, coolness and colour

Underfoot, majolica tiles create a sense of cool, capture the Sicilian light and are awash with shades of blues, greens and yellows plus others. Offering respite from the heat of a Sicilian summer.

As I have wandered Sicily I have, every now and then, photographed tiles (old and new) in palazzi and monasteries, at the house in Polizzi, along streets, in hotels and in 2018, at the International La Manifesta 12, 2018 art exhibition in Palermo.

Most are old, some new and some (in Polizzi Generosa's closed 15th century abbey) are possibly even Neapolitan.

A few captioned photos follow.


Classic blue and white tiles at the small b&b 'Le Lumie', a hidden spot to stay when exploring Modica in Sicily's south east.

(Stayed May 2017)


The' warmth' of tiles in  a guest bedroom at Palazzo Notar Nicchi, Polizzi Generosa

Local potter Giovanni d"angelo handmade all the floor tiles for the house.


Light captured, tiled floor in one of the sitting rooms of the house in Polizzi


In the 16th century abbey, Abbazia Santa Maria del Bosco a guesthouse hotel (a quiet refuge in the mountains surrounded by forest) near Contessa Entellina not far from Sambuca di Sicilia (a wonderful interior town to explore).

(Stayed June 2018)


Santa Maria del Bosco guesthouse hotel


In the breakfast room at the Abbey of Santa Maria del Bosco


Blue and White classics in the cheese making kitchen of a local cheesemaker, Vincenzo in the Madonie Mountains.


On the sea facing terrace at Henry's House Hotel, Ortigia, Siracusa. A freindly, warm hotel right on the sea.

(Stayed June 2018)


Henry's House Hotel, Ortigia, Siracusa.


On a street wall, via Allora, Palermo


Spotted at the flea market, 'Il Mercato dei Pulci' behind Palermo's cathedral


On the floor of the Badia Vecchia, 15th century Santa Margherita monastery, Polizzi Generosa

(splendid, possibly Neapolitan)


Badia Vecchia, Polizzi Generosa


On the floor of the late 15th century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Via Carlo V, Polizzi Generosa


Tiles handmade by Polizzi potter Giovanni d' Angelo 


Tiles on the floor of Giovanni d'Angelo's pottery shop in Polizzi Generosa on Via Garibaldi


From the work of art by Maria Thereza Alves, Brazil. It was an exhibition in La Manifesta 12 2018, in Palazzo Butera, Palermo

"This project alludes to the present foodscapes and landscapes of Sicily where the prickly pear and agave from Mexico, tomatoes and potatoes from the Andean region and the jacaranda and ceiba trees from Brazil form a new syncretism that at times, has been incorporated by Sicilians..." 

"The project began with a few antique tiles of exotic parrots from Brazil seen in the flea market in Piazza Marina (Palermo). They were remnants of a common motif in Palermo called 'Birds of Paradise'. (Taken from exhibition notes)







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