Sometimes you don’t have to go far from home to find something interesting
Last Sunday Facebook reminded me that the Piedmontese town of Mondovì was celebrating its pottery tradition with its 51st exhibition of artistic and traditional handicrafts.
So I took my son, jumped in the car and headed there. We parked downtown in Breo, an ancient quarter located at the feet of the Monte Regale hill, on which the city was built back in 1198 to escape the power of the Bishop of Asti.
It was only the early afternoon — my watch read sometime around 2 PM, yet the narrow streets were packed with visitors. Small, colorful clocktower placards hung from ropes above, guiding the many tourists through the fair.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
The fair was held on the upper part of the town, on the Piazza — that is, the main square. To reach it, you have to walk uphill for four kilometers; however, I have to point out that it’s more of an actual climb rather than a simple walk, since the place is some 600 meters above the sea level and the ground is quite steep.
So, instead of hiking our way up getting all sweaty and breathless, we opted for an easier and more fun way: we took the Funicolare, the town’s funicular railway. The small trip was nice: on our ride to the top we could see the whole city — and by night the view is even more striking.
As we reached the Piazza, we opened the doors and entered the fair.
The main square was full of any sort of stalls, including pottery ones and those from the local press museum. The activities to do were countless: teachers taught children how to paint on ceramic and how to draw the iconic rooster on vases and plates, artisans made custom kitchenware, and other people simply sold their art. Because this is what this exhibition is about: art.
The fair wasn’t only about selling artistic objects, obviously: at every corner, the city organized an art exhibit. Unfortunately for you, most of the artist didn’t let me take photos of their work. Most of the items put on display could be easily appreciated by both adults and children, others were a little bit more obscure, but still wonderful to look at.
All those artworks, the artists’ techniques, everything was magical. One of my favorite sculptures was a hot air balloon with a rooster painted on it.
Balloons were also a big thing: every year, in February, Mondovì hosts a big hot air balloon convention. Last year the sky of the town was studded with 28 of them, which were brought there from all over Europe. You should check it out for yourself next year!
Clocktower climbing and pottery nightlife
After all the beautiful things we saw, my son pointed to the tower. Yes, he wanted to visit it. My boy wanted to climb up the 87 steps and reach the bells, 30 meters above the ground. And we did it. It was tough, but once we were up there, the view repaid us immensely. From the Belvedere area, where the tower is located, you can see all the way up to Turin. Of course the weather has to be good, but we were lucky enough that that day it was.
During the day we had a lot of fun. We played bocce quadre, square bowling, how cool does that sound? When the sun fell down, the city literally blew up with more life and music. Florentine indie-pop musician Postino happened to be playing his repertoire on the Piazza, as Mondovì was a date of his tour, Latte di Soia (‘Soy Milk‘ in Italian). His melancholic voice and sound blended marvelously with the town’s atmosphere.
The day finished with the crowning of the bocce quadre winner. And for those wondering: no, it wasn’t me, unfortunately.
I believe that events like this one should be more sponsored. The fair is well known among the locals, but outside of Piedmont it doesn’t seem to be a thing, which is a shame honestly.
As I was having a chat with some craftsmen, they told me that most of the historical stalls were far gone, and probably next year there will be even fewer. “It’s a dying form of art,” said one of them. “Younger generations don’t appreciate that kind of work,” he continued. At least that’s the common feeling among those belonging to the older generations.
I disagree with this man’s view. From what I could see, 70 percent of the 80 stalls were run by people in their 30s. And that’s amazing, because it shows that there is still hope that art, crafts and artisan work can still be popular and appreciated by the youth.
Clearly, I cannot foresee if and how things will change for these sort of events, but one thing I do know for sure: next year you’ll catch me in Mondovì again.