In Naples perhaps more than anywhere else in Italy, craftsmanship is the fruit of ancient knowledge, handed down through the centuries.
Today, Neapolitan artisans are bringing their work into the present, fusing tradition with innovation, and nowhere more so than at the ceramics workshop La Scarabattola, a “laboratory of art” opened in the 1990s by three brothers of the Scuotto family. Their mission: reimagining the presepio, the Christmas Nativity scene, long an art form in Italy.
The Scuottos, now joined by two sisters and other family members, combine the sacred with the profane, creating dreamlike settings populated with hand-sculpted, hand-painted (and sometimes sinister) ceramic priests, devils, angels, even mermaids.
A recurrent figure is modeled on 70-year-old Giacomino Dodicesimo, who has visited the Scarabattola shop daily for the past 15 years. “His childlike view of the world, the freedom of a mind that doesn’t work like others, inspires us,” says Salvatore Scuotto.
And the name Scarabattola? It refers to the display cabinets that traditionally have held Nativity scenes, a nod to the past from a forward-looking team.
> La Scarabattola (Via dei Tribunali 50) is open Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 3:30-7:30 p.m. Works start at $20; the Scuottos also restore old Nativity scenes.
More authentic buys in Naples:
> Liuteria Calace (Vico San Domenico Maggiore 9)
Neapolitan mandolins become works of art in the hands of artisans at this workshop founded in 1825.
> Porcellane di Capodimonte (Corso Italia 34/1, Marano di Napoli)
Flower bouquets, fairies, even Vespa scooters are rendered by Naples’s top porcelain artisans.
> Officina della Tammorra (Vico S. Severino 39)
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Tambourines of all sizes, some painted with scenes of Naples, fill this workshop that also makes castanets.
This piece was written by Isabella Brega, the executive editor of Traveler’s Italian partner magazine, Touring.