I’m in the lovely seaside town of Polignano a Mare in Puglia in the south of Italy. Perched on the cliff tops overlooking the shimmering Adriatic Sea, is the home and workshop of one of the town’s many famous sons, Peppino Campanella, a sculptor in light.
As I walk out of the dazzling sunlight into the shaded interior, one by one a host of sparkling lights greet me as each is brought to life with a flick of a switch. These exquisite works of art adorn the walls and hang down from the ceilings all around me as Peppino, sits in the corner, quietly polishing a piece of glass.
Originally an architect, Peppino, first made a glass light fitting as a gift for a friend. It was so striking and unusual that soon requests from relatives, friends and friends of friends for more hand-crafted lights came flooding in. 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 an atmosphere, evoking elements of nature rather than to illuminate a room, he explains to me.
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.
Over 20 years ago, Peppino, transformed his grandfather’s ice-cream parlour into his studio where you can admire the most stunning collection of lights you’re ever likely to see. 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 has transformed the rooms above his studio into a home and with the same stunning views as the terrace, I can only imagine it must 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.
Visit Peppino Campanella’s website or visit his workshop at via Conversano, 9, Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy
Read more about my visits to Puglia on my travel blog, Travel With Kat.