The next contender in our Tile Olympics resides across the Mediterranean Sea. It is known for its amazing culture, food, and history. Italy’s rich culture and geologic resources are just a couple of the many reasons that artists and tile makers thrive in this beautiful, seaside country. Let’s take a visit to “Lo Stivale” and see why it is one of the top tile producing and design countries of the world – and why it is a contender for the gold medal of our Tile Olympics.
Italian tile began its debut during the Middle Ages. In churches and public meeting houses, ceramic tile decorated walls and floors. These tiles were typically hand-painted by local craftsmen. The design history was borrowed from hexagonal terracotta tiles that were popular in the late Roman Empire. Italian majolica handcrafters developed new styles from medieval tile design – and once only seen in churches and public meeting houses – tile began its introduction into personal dwellings.
Italy has been one of the largest producers of feldspar, pumice, and related materials. It is also a leading producer of dimension stone and marble. Marble is quarried at hundreds of locations from the Alps to Sicily. The most important white-marble-producing area is located in the Apuan Alps, near Carrara (look familiar?), and accounts for around one-third of the country’s 100,000 tons of white marble. (Source: Nation’s Encyclopedia)
In its evolution, Italian tile design focused on varying, repetitive geometric patterns. Many of the design concepts and elements, though now mass-produced, illustrate bright design and careful hand-crafted care. This still stems from the original building block of Italy’s love and rich history with tile. Today, some of the top tile manufacturers in the world have roots in Italy – and are proud of the heritage and regal regard that Italian tile history holds.