Petroio has made a name for itself over the centuries thanks to its production of articles in terracotta. Because of its leading role in earthenware, it has come to be regarded as the guardian of art and culture throughout the area; that is why it is home to the Museum of Terracotta, created to demonstrate the active overlap of the past and the present, of craftsmanship and design.
Displays within the exhibition space show the continuity between ancient techniques—as illustrated by fascinating reconstructions of the quarry where the clay is extracted and of the workshop where products are fired in a kiln—and more recent methods of production, including the possibility of visiting the local workspaces of today’s producers.
Objects are shown not as part of a collection but as expressions of a complex social and productive world, documented by large photographic panels, by videos, and by brief written passages that contain firsthand personal accounts. The conservation of certain forms, such as that of the large basins once used for laundry and now seen only holding lemon trees, interact with the innovations of modern design, building a bridge between past and present, between traditional shapes and novel forms.
At the end of the exhibition, it is possible to visit other areas, such as the teaching laboratory created for the handling of clay. Here, with the help of museum staff, the items are shaped and then fired in the kiln. A special space is dedicated to temporary exhibits so as to encourage further discussion on terracotta, underlying the versatility of the material, and showing its potential in the sphere of artistic expression.
The terracotta objects of Petroio are not only displayed in the exhibition but are also to be found throughout the town. The museum recommends a guided tour so that visitors can experience an in-depth view of the wide range of traditional craftsmanship in the Sienese countryside, letting the territory speak for itself as the home to ancient immoveable terracotta landmarks, like the Madonnas of roadside shrines and the eaves of many homes.
Reconstruction of a kiln: the furnace workspace must be crossed by visitors, and it illustrates the various phases of production, from loading the kiln to firing… procedures that require great skill on the part of the artisans!
Laboratory for the handling of clay: thanks to a small kiln, products made here are fired and then handed back to their respective creators to serve as meaningful keepsakes.
Museum of Terracotta
Via Valgelata, 10 (Località Petroio)
Tel. 0577 665188 – 0577 662009 (Comune) / 340 2478220
Before your visit, please call:
Available from Monday to Friday,
9.30 AM – 1.30 PM
Petroio is a small Medieval town of Etruscan origin, coiled around the spiral of a single street. It is set apart by the rough facing of its bricks, which recall the earth of the Crete Senesi. Along with Trequanda, Petroio was part of the territories of the Cacciaconti lords of the Scialenga. It then came within the domain of the Republic of Siena, under the Salimbeni and the Piccolomini families. Entering the town, walking by the old terracotta factory with its gorgeous chimney, visitors come upon the Romanesque Church of San Giorgio and the Palazzo Pretorio, today home to the museum. The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, located on the piazza of the same name, contains an oil painting by the Sienese painter Rutilio Manetti showing the Ascension, and a remarkable canvas by the Sienese painter Taddeo di Bartolo. The road ends at the top of the hill, at the foot of the Torre Civica, the tower built in large square blocks of tufo, and the Cassero (stronghold) dating back to the 12th century.