While staying at the Borgobianco Resort and Spa in Puglia last month, Laure, from the hotel, was kind enough to show me around the nearby town of Polignano a Mare – first stop – the workshop of Peppino Campanella.
On Via Conversano, perched on the cliff tops overlooking the Adriatic on Italy’s west coast, is the home and workshop of one of the town’s many famous sons.
As I walked out of the dazzling sunlight into the shaded interior, one by one a host of sparkling lights greeted me as each was brought to life with a flick of a switch. These exquisite works of art adorned the walls and hung down from the ceilings all around me as Peppino, sat in the corner, quietly polishing a piece of glass.
Peppino trained and worked as an architect but having made a friend a stunning light as a gift, requests from friends and relatives for more hand-crafted lights came flooding in and slowly the one took over from the other until he made his living entirely from producing these dramatic lighted glass sculptures. Peppino sees glass as “solid water” and admires its ability to transmit light. His aim is to create atmosphere, evoking elements of nature rather than to illuminate a room.
The birth-place of many renowned artists and musicians, including the singer Domenico Modugno, Polignano is to this day also renowned for producing some of Italy’s finest ice-cream for which the name Campanella is also associated thanks to Peppino’s grandfather who was renowned for making the very best. He passed on his knowledge to other members of the community who keep the tradition alive today and every Sunday residents of the nearby city of Bari still flock to Poliganano for an ice-cream at Mario Campanella “Il Super Mago del Gelo” opposite the gateway in to the old town or Bar Turismo, Traversa Pompeo Sarnelli, 7, which is now reputed to have the best.
15 years ago, Peppino, transformed his grandfather’s ice-cream parlour into his studio where I now admired the most stunning collection of lights I have ever seen. In high demand from exclusive hotels and the finest shopping emporiums, as well as private homes, the name Campanella is now equally famous for these works of art as for the art of making ice-cream.
In the studio fascinating sculptures by Simone Bellotti from Bologne can also be viewed including a stunning dragon standing sentinel on the cliff top terrace looking over Polignano’s bay possibly on the lookout for the infamous pirates that used to raid these shores.
I must admit I am quite envious of Peppino. Not only is he able to make a living from doing something he really loves but he is able to work in the most stunning setting. From the studio large double doors open on to the terrace overlooking the bay of Polignano as the dragon will attest to – a truly stunning location. Peppino is currently transforming the rooms above his studio into a home and with the same stunning views as the terrace I can only imagine it will be a delight to live there whether enjoying the Italian summer sunshine (while enjoying a scoop or two of home-made ice-cream) or watching the waves crash against the cliffs below during a winter storm.
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