Visitors from all over the world come to Nove, Italy to shop in the more than 100 ceramics stores in the tiny town. Known from some of the best handcrafted ceramics in all of Italy, you can find the works in many US stores such as Williams-Sonoma, Tiffany’s, Lenox, and Macy’s. But a visit to Nove means you can purchase the beautiful ceramics at factory prices and even try your hand at bartering.
La Ceramica VBC
I picked the perfect place settings to represent our life in Italy. Each motif represents a different and beautiful aspect of Italian Veneto history: the Baroque architecture, the stripes representing the Palladian columns of palazzos along the Brenta river, the flowers of the fields, the lace from the island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon, the emblems of the Venetian coat of arms, the ruffle of the Adriatic sea waves, and the grapes for the Veneto vineyards.
Each piece is handmade of terra marrone (brown clay) in the Veneto town of Nove at the La Ceramica VBC factory store. La Ceramica VBC has a huge selection, and it is the store that sells Tiffany, Lenox and Vietri pieces at a fraction of the cost you would pay in the United States.
Ceramiche Artistiche Ancora
Ceramiche Artistiche Ancora sells a large assortment of hand-painted pieces and is also not to be missed. Here, as with VBC, you can get a selection of tableware in addition to decorative pieces. Ancora is particularly known for the famous Chicken Pitchers.
The origin of the chicken pitchers dates back to the early Renaissance period in the Republic of Florence. The wealthiest and most powerful family in the republic at the time was the Medici family. Its patriarch was the famous Lorenzo the Magnificent who had one brother, Giuliano. Their only serious rival was the Pazzi family.
The Medicis’ wealth was primarily based upon their large land holding, which were worked by peasants in the nearby villages. Occasionally, the Medicis would throw large festivals in these villages for the peasants. Giuliano, in particular, enjoyed throwing a party at the slightest suggestion. Knowing this, the Pazzis had someone suggest to Giuliano that he host a festival in the small village of Gallina, where no festivals had been held before. Giuliano agreed and the Pazzis plotted to kill Giuliano and his guards at night after the festival when they would be most vulnerable (due to vast amounts of wine drunk).
In the fall of 1478, Giuliano and his entourage including guards, cooks and craftsmen went to Gallina (which no longer exists) to throw the party. The Pazzis hired assassins to sneak into town and carry out their plot. They would have succeeded except that when they crossed the yard to kill Giuliano, they woke the chickens. The frenzied cackling woke Giuliano and his guards. The assassins were caught, of course, and executed. Giuliano was so thrilled that the chickens had warned him that he threw another festival the following night. He ordered his artisans to create ceramic copies of chickens to be used as wine pitchers. He gave these to the peasants and their friends for good luck in warding off evil.It is now an Italian tradition to give a chicken pitcher to friends and family as a symbol of good luck and to ward off evil from the home.
My other favorite in Nove is Ceramiche Larry S.K.G, which is very popular for the canisters and personalized pottery. Opened in 1971 by Guglielmo dalla Gassa and his wife Luciana, Larry S.K.G. represents their four sons Larry, Susy, Ketty, Genny, who now run the company. I got an oil cruet on the Ponte Vecchio in Florene and wanted a set of canisters to match. I brought my oil cruet in to Ceramiche Larry and while it isn’t a perfect match, they did an excellent job of reproducing the pattern from the oil cruet.
Nove Shop Addresses
- La Ceramica VBC is located at Via Molini 45 and is open Monday – Friday 8:30am -12:30pm / 2pm – 6pm and Saturday 8:30am – 1:30pm
- Ceramiche Artistiche Ancora is located at Via Martini 26 and is open Monday – Friday 8am – 12pm / 1:30pm – 6:30pm and Saturday 8am – 12pm
- Ceramiche Larry is located at Via Martini 50 and is open Monday – Saturday 8am – 12pm / 2pm – 4:30pm
- Ceramiche Edelweiss is located at Via Rizzi 24 and is open Monday – Friday 8:30am – 12pm / 2pm – 6pm
- Ceramiche Artistiche F. Li Zarpellon is located at Via Molini 51 and is open by appointment
- Bottega del Ceramista is located at Via Molini 88 and is open Monday – Friday 8:30am – 12:30pm / 2pm – 6:30pm and Saturday 8:30am – 12pm
- Union S.N.C.Di Vicino Alessandro & C is located at Via Azzone Sesso 48 and is open Monday – Friday 8am – 12pm / 1:30pm – 5:30pm and Saturday 8am – 12pm
- Ceramiche Elios S.N.C. Di Polo Desiderio E Ismaele is located at Via Rivarotta 18 and is open Monday – Friday 8am – 12pm / 1:30pm – 6:00pm and Saturday 8am – 12pm
- Casa Del Peltro Di Rossi Roberto is located at Via S. Romana 13 and is open Monday – Friday 8:30am – 12:30pm / 2pm – 6:30pm and Saturday 8:30am – 12pm
- Ceramiche Pizzato Marco is located at Via Molini 67 and is open Monday – Friday 8:30am – 12:30pm / 2pm – 6:30pm and Saturday 8:30am – 12pm
Just a few kilometers from the famous pottery haven, Marositica is worth a visit. The entire town can be visited in about an hour’s time, so it’s worth stopping by on during your shopping trip to Nove.
The Pauso hill majestically stands with a castle perched atop it on the Veneto plains, striking medieval walls cascading down the hill. This normally quiet town is Marostica, world famous for the Human Chess Game that takes place every September in even numbered years in Piazza degli Scacchi, where an inlaid marble chess board dominates the square.
Marostica is well worth a visit anytime though and its primary sights are the two castles: Castello Superiore (Upper Castle) with its medieval walls like two arms enveloping the entire hillside and historical center, and the circle completed with Castello Inferiore (Lower Castle) guarding the entrance to the medieval city.
Castello Superiore can be reached via car up the steep paved road, but hiking up to the castle affords stunning views. The Sentiero dei Carmini footpath begins by following the cobbled streets out of Piazza degli Scacchi and heading to the right. Soon the cobbled path zig-zags up through olive groves, before turning to a dirt path and becoming steep. Not to worry though! There are benches along the path to rest and take in the views and ornamental conifers provide shade.
Soon the Upper Castle is reached, though most of it was devastated in 1510. There is a restaurant at the Upper Castle with an outdoor terrace where you can dine in summer and take in the 360° panorama of the plains and the Asiago plateau.
Lizards bask on the stone steps that lead up to the walls and ramparts. From even higher up, the Piazza degli Scacchi looks miniature. The Veneto plains stretch southward as far as the eye can see. To the north, the Asiago plateau rises up dramatically with villages dotting the landscape. You might even catch sight of the colorful kites of paragliders floating back to earth from the Asiago plateau!
We opted to take the asphalt road back down to the Piazza degli Scacchi instead of the trail. It’s north-western position along the hillside affords more shade and a different perspective as you descend on the outside of the Medieval walls.
La Partita a Scacchi: Marostica’s Human Chess Game
The hilltop town of Marostica in the Veneto Plains is famous for two things: its special heart shaped variety of cherries that is the only Italian variety of cherry to earn P.G.I (protected geographic indication) and the Marostica Human Chess Game played on the inlaid marble chess board dominating the square.
It was 1454 in the small town of Marostica, which then still belonged to the Venetian Republic. Two noble knights, Rinaldo D’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara, challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of the beautiful Lionora. Taddeo Parisio, father of Lionora and Lord of the Marostica castle did not want to make an enemy of either suitor or loose them in a duel, so he forbade them to duel in under the Cangrande della Scala’s Edict. He instead declared that the two rivals would play a chess game: the winner would wed Lionora and the loser would join the Lord’s family as the husband of Lionora’s younger sister Oldrada. The Lord also decided the challenge should be honored by an performance of armed men, fool-soldiers and knights, with fireworks and dances and music.
It may no longer be the 1400’s, but the competitors are still dueling it out in a battle of their wits on Marostica’s giant marble chessboard. Every even numbered year in September revelers from all around Italy come to Marostica to cheer on either the black or the white knight as each knight calls out their move and the costumed players move according to the instructions of each knight.
The re-enactment of the Marostica Human Chess Game involves over 550 characters and last around two hours. Once the sun sets, the event begins with archers high on the towers of the Lower Castle shooting flaming arrows to the outskirts of the chess board. In a burst of flames, the chess board comes to life. The orders are still given to the characters and cast today in the “Serenissima Republic of Venezia” dialect.
To complicate things further, Lady Lionora was secretly in love with one of the two knights. She secretly informed the population that if the winner were her beloved, the Lower Castle would be illuminated by white light so that all the town’s people could share in their joy. Just as Lionora was united with her true love when he won both the Marostica Human Chess Game and her heart, the game ends in a celebration of music, dance, and fireworks. The lower castle, just as you would expect all good fairy tales to end, blazes a white so bright that in that moment, it can no doubt be seen all the way from the sea.
Bassano del Grappa
Also located a short drive from Nove, Bassano Del Grappa is famous for the spirit Grappa.The town is bigger than Marostica, but can also be visited for the main sights and a grappa tasting in about an hour or so.
Grappa is now a protected name in the EU, just like Barolo wine and Parmigiano cheese. To be called grappa, the following criteria must be met:
(1) Produced in Italy
(2) Produced from pomace
(3) Fermentation and distillation must occur on the pomace—no added water
The legend tells that a Roman soldier first distilled Grappa in the northern Italian town of Bassano del Grappa using a distilling equipment stolen in Egypt (“Crisiopea di Cleopatra” 2nd century AD). The city itself was founded in the 2nd century BCE by a Roman called Bassianus, hence the original name Bassano Veneto. After the terrible battles on Mount Grappa in WWI , where thousands of soldiers lost their lives, a decision was made to change the name of the town. In 1928, the name was changed to Bassano del Grappa, meaning Bassano of Mount Grappa, as a memorial to the soldiers killed.
The symbol of Bassano del Grappa is the covered wooden pontoon bridge , which was designed by the architect Andrea Palladio in 1569. The bridge was destroyed many times, the last time during WWII. The Alpine soldiers, or Alpini have always revered the wooden bridge and Bassano del Grappa. After the destruction of the bridge, they took up a private collection and had the bridge completely rebuilt. Often soldiers flock to the bridge to remember and sing songs from their days as alpine soldiers. The bridge is aptly named the Ponte delgi Alpini.
Aquavite (grappa) Nardini has been produced and bottled in Bassano del Grappa since 1779. The founder of Italy’s most traditional distillery was Bortolo Nardini, who purchased in April of that year, an inn at the eastern entrance of the famous wooden covered Bassano bridge, on the Brenta river bank. The inn soon became the “Grapperia Nardini”, strategically located for both the ample water supply, a necessary element in the distillation process, as well as its accessibility to the local regional markets. The Grapperia Nardini is preserved in its original state allowing it to be included in the exclusive Association of Historical Places of Italy.
Know Before You Go
- Most shops in Nove accept credit cards; however, you can get a discount if you pay in cash. There are ATMs in the center of town.
- Stop in nearby Bassano del Grappa after shopping in Nove for grappa tasting. Or stop in nearby Marostica for lunch in front of the lower castle.
- If having lunch in Nove, Pizzeria Giuliana is a good option many locals dine at. It’s located at Via Padre Roberto 2.
- The hike to the Upper Castle takes 1.5 – 2 hours round trip.
- There are various car parks just outside the historic center of Marostica. Take care if hiking to the castle not to park in the timed lot as it is only 60 minutes.
- On Sundays from 4 – 5:30 pm in April – October, there is a birds of prey demonstration at the Ornithological Museum just outside the walls of the Upper Castle. Adults are €5 and children are €3 (children under 3 are free); the ticket includes entrance to the museum and the flight demonstration.
- Marostica was a renowned worldwide straw hat producer and exporter up until World War II. There is now a Straw Hat Museum in the Lower Castle to honor the tradition.
- The nearest train station to Marostica is in Bassano del Grappa and then buses connect the two towns. Or it can be reached by car from the A4 highway from Venice or Milan.