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Jan 4, 2013

The Cream of Italian Ceramics

“I’m really fond of these plates, Katharina. Where did you get them?

– A little less than a thousand kilometers from here.

– Let me guess… In Italy, right?”

Yes, in Italy. In a little town south of Padua, to be exact.Nine years ago, I was working at La Montecchia, one of the residences featured in our Trust & Travel rental catalogue. I absolutely wanted to get some plates to hang on the walls of the bed-and-breakfast suite which I was helping to decorate. I was also in a nest-building mood: newly married and pregnant, I had recently moved to Paris and wanted to bring back with me a little piece of Italy.

So I went to this shop I had heard about, in the town of Este, 30 km south of Padua: the Este Ceramiche Porcellane outlet. This is where I came upon – and fell in love with – the earthenware which caught my friend’s own fancy last week when she came over for dinner here in Paris. These plates were “leftovers” from a shipment intended for the Dior fashion house (their backside were marked with the glamourous Parisian brandname). I liked their simple and elegant design, the fine hand-painting, the quality of the clay, and the fact that they were ceramics (my favourites) and not porcelain ware.

Not only was he nice enough to give me a real good price on the whole set of plates (more than 25 in all), the friendly salesman gave me a bouillon cup – puerpera  in Italian – as a present. Traditionally, women who had just given birth would drink strengthening broth out of such cups. Which I did, of course.

The Este Ceramiche Porcellane  company is one of the oldest ceramics factories in Europe. It is renowned for making handmade sets of plates and complements usually adorned with a nature theme. In the past, every single fruit and vegetable you can think of had its own service. Pumpkin-shaped soup terrines, cabbage leaf serving dishes and sculpted fruit bowls are still being made today by the Este artisans.

The quality of the clay they use is also exceptional. White in colour and particularly dense, it weighs very little, a property which allows the production of very thin objects, something unusual for ceramics. Moreover, each piece is unique and can be custom-made. A porcelain bowl with hand-painted initials, for instance, makes for a great wedding gift.

TheEste Ceramiche Porcellane firm has been making high fashion tableware for brands like Dior, Tiffany and Barneys for a great many years. With a little luck, you might even come across a piece from one of these branded collections as you look around their shop. Some items have small defects, but their price is then reduced to take this into account. Here is the link to their website:

If you happen to be staying at Frassanelle or La Montecchia, the drive to Este is a short one – not even half an hour. Nestled in the beautiful Euganean Hills south of Padua, this charming town is really worth a visit. With its old duomo (cathedral) and tall clock tower, Este’s central piazza is very picturesque and just a short walk from the Este Ceramiche Porcellane outlet. And last but not least, there is also an excellent restaurant right on this square!

This has all been handed to you on a plate, hasn’t it? Have a good week!

Katharina's Italy