With masterpieces like Michalangelo’s David and Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Italy is a mecca for art lovers eager to glimpse the country’s iconic artworks. While many of us would love to display one of these treasures in our own homes, pulling the art heist of the century isn’t the best way to honor Italian artists. Lucky for us, Coppola Artistica in downtown Venice offers a solution that doesn’t involve crazy capers. Owned by Giuseppe Coppola, Coppola Artisitica is a haven for anyone looking to add a bit of la dolce vita to their lives. The store specializes in handmade ceramics like mugs, pasta bowls and decorative wall art.

A native of Sorrento, Italy, Coppola was immersed in the medium from a young age. His grandmother, aunts and uncles and parents own or have owned ceramics stores for decades. “Growing up, I was always surrounded by hand-painted ceramics. I had a lot of artists around in my family business, and I loved it since I was a kid,” he says. In 1998, his brother met an American woman who was on vacation in Italy, and the couple opened the original Coppola Artistica in Duluth, Minnesota, from which his wife hails. When the pair decided to retire, Coppola moved to the United States, where he took over the shop and moved it to Venice, Florida. 

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

Since 2015, Coppola Artistica has connected the Gulf Coast to Italian ceramic artisans. “I deal directly with the artists. There are some little towns all over Italy where there is an ancient tradition of making handmade pottery,” Coppola adds, listing the towns of Vietri sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast, Caltagirone in Sicily, Deruta in Umbria and Bassano del Grappa in Veneto as examples. He collaborates with about 25 different artists who spend a great deal of time working on the pieces. “Terracotta clay is like a dough, so the first step is to give it shape. Some pieces are made by hand, like pitchers and vases, and others, like plates, are made in a mold so they’re all the same,” he says. After shaping, the pottery is fired, painted and glazed, then fired again. Since handcrafting and painting each item takes time, he places his orders in January. By late August or September, the pieces are complete, and he travels to Italy to package the items and ship them to Florida. 

“In the last 20 years, the pottery has become more popular,” Coppola adds. “Ceramic took off compared to the other forms of souvenirs.” From his childhood to trips back to Sorrento to help his family’s business during the summer, which is their busy season, he’s watched the demand for the products grow. Some of the most popular pieces include pasta bowls, olive oil dispensers, plates, spoon rests and trinkets like wine stoppers. These durable ceramic items can go in the dishwasher and even be baked, but shouldn’t be microwaved as the process can form cracks. Larger items, like lava stone tables adorned with gorgeous paintings, are also fan favorites. While the art form is ancient, Italian ceramicists continue to play with it, creating objects like a fun spiral olive tray, which looks like a slide for olives. “Italians are very artistic. At the beginning of the year, they come up with something different,” he says. “Every year I have something new.”