Kitchenware between Middle Age and Renaissance

In the courtyard of the castle a fairly small room interpreted as a kitchen was discovered, it seems to have been brusquely abandoned at the end of the 15th century, this based also on the finding of a coin there of Alfonso I the Magnanimous (1435-1458).

Painted jug (16th century) Click here to enlarge

In a corner of this room the bottom of a fireplace was found, with, within it, the remains of a meal, a small set of saucepans, some amphorae which held liquids and some measures/jugs. This find allows us to give precise dates to some ceramic objects used for cooking food, which underwent little change during the Middle Ages. From 15th century cookery we find small saucepans, made out of a specially made mix of clay which can withstand abrupt changes in temperature, probably used to cook individual portions of food. Cooking was carried out by putting the receptacle next to the heat source rather than on top: this can be seen from the frequent traces of exposure to fire, which can be found in just one area on the pots. Some of them were glazed inside, making them waterproof and easier to clean.


Small containers, of similar shapes but different sizes, once again glazed on the inside, seem to have been used as measures and containers for spices, the latter being used a lot when cooking boiled meat (“exotic” spices for the lords, “local” ones for the villagers). Spices were only later abandoned, in the 17th century, when the medieval use of spices was looked down on and the natural taste of food was in favour.

Glazed pottery (16th-17th century) Click here to enlarge

The excavations of the moat of the Borgo have uncovered larger saucepans which can be dated to the end of the 16th century. These provide us with examples of the changes in cooking containers in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, probably reflecting changes in Renaissance cooking habits. The decorations painted in white are representative of a tradition which, since the early Renaissance has continued to this day, as the production of traditional pottery in Salento today attests. In store cupboards, on the other hand, it was typical to use ceramic containers, different sized amphorae to store short term supplies of wine and oil, and large earthenware urns for water, with red and white painted decorations. These types of container were widespread, also in the non-decorated style, since clay, more than other materials (like wood) is well adapted to keeping drinks cool. Lighting, in Medieval and Renaissance times, right up to the early 1900s was mainly using ceramic containers, made to work with oil produced precisely for this purpose. The lamps, like the saucepans, changed little over the centuries; in the late Medieval period they were more likely to have been glazed with a transparent glaze, while at the end of the 15th century lamps with more elegant shapes began to appear, mirroring the changes in taste that were to become more obvious in the high Renaissance period, with the appearance of lamps glazed white with special holders.