This time I was lucky. Signor Sarti on tel 338 28 79741 was the right person to contact in order to visit the ceramics museum of Camporgiano. I returned to the little town in the upper Serchio valley dominated by its massive Estensi fortress and met him. We entered into one of the four great turrets forming a quadrilateral and at last got to see these long-for ceramics.
Where did these ceramics come from? There was no pottery industry in the area so how did these pieces come to be here in such quantities. Signor Sarti explained it all to me. The original fortress was built in the 1300’s by the condottiere Castruccio Castracani before the advent of firepower and had high thinnish walls to deflect arrows. When cannonballs and muskets came into the fray and the town was conquered by the Estensi dynasty something defending against the new weapons of war had to be thought out. So a new fortress was built in 1446 encircling the old and displaying the inclined, thicker and lower walls which are known so well by those who visit Lucca. There was, thus, a hollow space created between the old and new fortress walls and the inhabitants used this as a dump, over the years for their old, broken or unwanted plates and pottery items. Most of these items had come from that capital of the best Italian pottery Faenza – from which, of course, we get the word faience.
The main buildings of the Estensi fortress were irreparably damaged in the 1920 earthquake but the massive walls withstood the seismic shock and a private residence was built on top of the walls.
During the last war the fortress was used as an air-raid shelter by the local inhabitants before the allies advance further north towards the decisive battle of Aulla
Quite by chance after the last war, during an archaeological dig, these pottery waste dumps were rediscovered and found to contain some truly precious pieces of renaissance works dating from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. These included everything from plates to pitchers, bowls and tiles.
A museum was eventually opened in 1976; restored in 1999 and again closed this century for several years until it was recently reopened.
In fact, when we entered the museum was covered with a layer of dust which the custodian was desperately trying to sweep away since the whole interior of the bastion had been closed for some four years.
Here is the area where the majority of the ceramics was found – between the walls of the old and the new fortress.
The collection was well lay out and there were some quite magnificent examples.
I was also able to visit the beautiful private gardens and met a charming couple from the USA who were also ‘castling’ in the area. They’d been to Italy at least twenty times and had enjoyed most of the fortresses and castles that dot the Garfagnanan and Aulla regions.
I pointed out to them the fortress of Verrucole (described in my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/a-stunning-castle-comes-to-life/) which stands opposite Camporgiano near San Romano and truly the Scythian gates of the upper Serchio.
I now headed towards another great new discovery for me – the recently constructed Tibetan bridge over the Lake of Vagli. But that area deserves a whole new post!