The artisans of the Valdichiana Senese tell their creations: Moreno Cresti and the working of terracotta

Lug 19, 2023

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A trip to the Valdichiana Senese to learn about local craftsmanship and the golden hands of local artisans.

An itinerary to discover the Valdichiana Senese through the dexterity and creativity of the area’s craftsmen. In the Municipality of Trequanda, in the hamlet of Petroio, terracotta has been worked on since the dawn of time. Moreno has been carrying on his workshop with dedication and creativity for decades.

The spark between man and ceramics ignited about 18,000 years ago and since then a love that has never faded has broken out: millions of artifacts have been created in the most remote areas of the globe with both practical and decorative functions. It has been discovered that the first ceramics were made in the Neolithic period, simultaneously in Asia and Africa: two distant and unconnected cultures, which at the same time understood how to work clay to make it useful for human beings. The manufacturing techniques have been refined more and more, spreading in Ancient Greece and Middle Eastern cultures, reaching up to the present day with artistic and everyday objects. And the Valdichiana? Here the tradition of processing and exchanging ceramics has been attested since the Etruscan era. In the prestigious National Etruscan Museum of Chiusi you can find numerous finds of “bucchero”, the special ceramic made by the people of ancient Etruria with a technique that makes it similar to metal, black and shiny to the eye, fine and very light to the touch. A cooking so particular that it is still today a mystery handed down only by very few artisans. The Etruscans also used clay for the construction of slabs to decorate the facades of houses, canopic jars for the conservation of the remains of the deceased, votive statuettes, as well as for the creation of artifacts for daily use. And the trade in these products was flourishing: just think that numerous wrecks containing Etruscan ceramics have been found in the Mediterranean on the routes to Greece.

“The Etruscans produced extraordinary artefacts starting from clay because the raw material found in our area is excellent” says Moreno Cresti, an artisan who today continues the creation and production of handmade terracotta in Petroio, a small fraction of Trequanda : “The Etruscans knew how to exploit the good qualities of this local material and then for centuries the art of creating custom-made artefacts starting from clay was handed down”.

A manual work that has changed a lot over the last few years thanks to technological innovation: “Fifty years ago this was extremely strenuous work, you literally entered the kiln to fire the objects. I remember that sometimes in the evening, some cats would enter the oven and it would be necessary to recover them. Now the ovens are at temperature, they don’t overheat externally and you no longer have to go inside. You work more calmly and there is much more time to work on the creation of objects”. Yes, because Moreno and his wife, who learned to draw from him, create objects starting from the pencil: they create the drawing, from which they then produce the model, the mold and then the finished product. F.A.T.A.P., as Moreno’s company is called, creates customized and personalized objects, as well as vases, amphorae, shelves, fireplaces and statues: “We turn fifty this year. The company was born in 1971 as a cooperative, today I manage it with my wife and we often host Italian and foreign tourists to come and see our work. It takes time to learn this craft, which requires a lot of practice and creativity. I started coming here to the workshop when I was 15 and I’m happy to see the interest and curiosity in knowing how our objects are made”. “Moreno, how important is terracotta production still in Trequanda?” “Very much, because an ancient trade is handed down. There is also an old proverb that is handed down from generation to generation in the area and it says that if you don’t find a wife or husband, just go to Petroio and have it made in earthenware”.

Moreno is just one of the many craftsmen who create unique creations in the Valdichiana Senese. In the coming weeks we will tell the stories of the other expert masters of art and craftsmanship who open the doors of their shops every day to create ceramics, musical instruments, jewels and much more. Follow us to discover them all. And if you missed it, take a look at our video, where you can see the craftsmen at work.

If you are curious to get to know Moreno and the other artisans of the Valdichiana Senese live, book the Valdichiana Living Artisans Tour. For an all-round experience, we have also thought of a 3-day stay to get to know the Valdichiana Senese, explore the artisan shops and eat the typical products of the area. Check it out here.