Squillace is the kind of picture-perfect town you can discover all over Italy.  A community of local artisans; families who have kept ancient traditions alive for thousands of years.  This is what makes Italy special- it is what keeps us enthralled with the layered and complex stories, the rich local histories saturating the entire country.

Squillace is an ancient seaside town and comune, in the Province of Catanzaro, part of Calabria, facing the Gulf of Squillace.  In travelling through Calabria you might never discover the treasures of this town.  It’s the kind of hillside neighborhood easily missed- you’d have to seek it out  with the help of a local resident or a family member.

If you are lucky enough to stumble upon this lovely seaside town, you’d also discover Squillace’s birthright: Terra Cotta Ceramics.  Last year the Bottega d’Arte Il Tornio welcomed a group of American tourists travelling with Chef Mark McDonald on his annual tour of Southern Italy.

As guests of the facility, Claudio and Beatrice, two of the local artisans still trained in this ancient art, gave the group a demonstration of Terra Cotta making old enough its roots are actually traced to Ancient Greece.  The residents of Squillace are still today referred to locally as pignatari, a name derived from pignata, a word for a clay vessel used to cook beans centuries ago.  Talk about a family tradition.

Claudio and Beatrice also demonstrated the art of decorating these clay vessels, a style referred to as “graffiti” (a word which has been borrowed in modern times as well).  This truly resonates with me.  Imagine, a word we use casually everyday, resulting from a style of artwork thousands of years old- still being practiced today in Calabria!

This is the definition of culture- a human history of art, communication, story-telling and skill-teaching.  Italy grabs at all of us, no matter our own ethnic background, simply because so much of this ancient culture still exists there today.

This isn’t simply Italian history- it is human history, and it belongs to all of us.


If you’re intrested in learning more about the tour of Southern Italy mentioned in this post, please Click Here for a full itinerary.

For more information, please contact Chef Mark McDonald directly:

chefmarkmcdonald@yahoo.com, (714) 655-6142