If you arrive in Impruneta from one of the country backroads you might just come across a number of the smaller workshops producing the famous terracotta.
Roughly translated that's cooked earth, and the dark brown clay pots, statues and atistic objects are just that.
Synonymous with Tuscany, Impruneta is the capital of terracotta manufacturing in Italy, at least historically since 1098 for a number of documented reasons.
- the local clay is waterproof and resistant to cracking at very low temperatures.
- an abundance of woodlands feeding the kilns
- the vicinity of Florence as a market
For centuries the potters of Impruneta furnished typical household objects for the farmers and laborers of Tuscany. The most common items were the large jugs of different sizes and shapes used to store olive oil and water.
In 1308 they formed a corporation which regulated production and guaranteed quality. They tended to work in the warmer seasons when good weather guaranteed better conditions.
Other contracts were substantial, such as the commission to produce the bricks and roofing tiles used to construct the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence under the supervision of Brunelleschi himself who insisted on their exact measurement and quality.
But not only roof tiles. As manufacturing technology improved so terracotta lent itself to figurative art and decoration.
The number of kilns and families involved in the production of terracotta and the quality of the products stablized towards the XVII century.
Documents contained in the archives of the town indicate these artisans as being of an upper income level.
Inevitably, the 19th century saw a revolution to mass production. However, small kilns still following the traditional methods of production have retained their niche with special orders and artistic objects.
Impruneta remains a small place with country town atmosphere all revolving around the large town square. Go for half a day and lunch.