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, this is the home and workshop of one of the town’s many famous sons, Peppino Campanella, a sculptor in light.
Peppino Campanella in his workshop in Puglia, Italy
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 came flooding in for more hand-crafted lights. 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.
Campanella isn’t the only famous son of Polignano. This little seaside town was the birth-place of many renowned artists and musicians, including the singer Domenico Modugno.
And Peppino isn’t the only famous Campanella! The town has another claim to fame associated with the name, thanks to Peppino’s grandfather. He was renowned for making ice-cream and passed this passion on to his children.
To this day, Polignano is known for producing some of Italy’s finest ice-cream, coffees and cakes. Every Sunday residents of the nearby city of Bari still flock to Polignano for a tasty treat at Mario Campanella “Il Super Mago del Gelo” which is now reputed to have the best ice-cream in town and is still owned and run by the Campanella family. You’ll find it opposite the gateway into the old town on Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, at number 22.
Peppino’s Studio in Polignano
Over 20 years ago, Peppino, transformed his grandfather’s original ice-cream parlour into his studio where you can admire the most stunning collection of lights you’re ever likely to see.
Fascinating sculptures by Simone Bellotti from Bologne can also be viewed in the studio. This stunning dragon stands 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 soaking up 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.
Campanella’s studio (far left) looking across the bay
The name Campanella is now equally famous for these ‘sculptures in light’ as it is the art of making ice-cream. Peppino Campanella’s work is in high demand by exclusive hotels and the finest shopping emporiums, as well as private homes.
The view from Peppino Campanella’s terrace.