Sorrento is not only an enchanting town with wonderful views or excellent cuisine. It is also a place rich in traditions, one of which is Intarsio Sorrentino, that is, Sorrento wood inlay or Sorrento marquetry.
Origins of Sorrento marquetry
The Italian word “intarsio” comes from the Arabic word “tarsi,” meaning “incrustation” or “decoration,” and refers to a type of craftsmanship in which shaped elements of wood (or stone) are fitted together to form figurative representations.
The art of inlay dates back to the time of the ancient Egyptians, and the famous mask of Tutankhamun is an example. After spreading to Asia Minor it reached the Roman Empire.
In medieval Italy, craftsmen from the Veneto and Tuscany became very skilled at inlay, although later Florentine artists abandoned this art in favor of painting, which allow to depict human forms more accurately.
The development of Sorrento marquetry took place between the 14th and 15th centuries, thanks to the Benedictine monks of the monastery of Sant’Agrippino, who used to make both carvings and inlays using the typical woods of the area, such as lemon, orange and walnut. However, it was in the 19th century that the art had its greatest success, so much so that in 1886 a special School was founded in Sorrento to bring it into contact with the needs of industry.
Today, Sorrento inlays embellish objects of all kinds, from jewelry boxes to plates to tables and cabinets. The beauty of these artworks lies in:
- the different shades of the woods,
- the precision of the cutting and fitting,
- the variety of the decorations, which can depict landscapes, people, squiggles, and more.
How Italian artisans make a Sorrento wood inlay
Making a Sorrento wood inlay requires a lot of time and patience.
First, craftsmen prepare a reference design, which they then brings out on sheets of wood. The sheets are of different woods and therefore have different colors.
Then, the craftsmen cut the different pieces with the fretwork and arrange them to make sure the final design is pleasing. If they are satisfied with the result, they proceed glueing the pieces to each other. After that, they sand the pieces several times and finally varnish the artwork.
The best souvenirs
Walking around the historic center of Sorrento, you can see that stores and workshops display numerous items decorated with Sorrento inlays. And, in our opinion, these are one of the best souvenirs you can take home from an Amalfi Coast vacation, just like Limoncello bottles, Vietri ceramics and much more! They are, in fact, handmade objects, made with great care, and you cannot find them anywhere else. Moreover, there are so many types, large and small, classic or modern design, more or less expensive, that anyone can find the right gift for themselves or their loved ones.
Do you want to visit Sorrento? Plan your trip and book a stay in one of our luxury villas.!