■ 2 May 2012 by James Martin
Rutigliano. You’ve probably never heard of it. Rutigliano is a village near Bari in Puglia that has always been a village devoted to pottery; its name derives from “Rutilius”, the reddish color of the local clay. It has become very famous indeed these days for its artisanal terracotta whistles. They’re not just little whistles you give to kids. Art is involved. Adult themes, satirical elements, toilet humor, hens…all involved. I’ve sprinkled this post with representative whistle pictures so you don’t think I’m just blowing smoke.
I’ve even included a picture of one of the local whistle producers about to blow a whistle over there on the left. That’s so you can see that no matter how intricate, how enormous, or even how complex the whistle is, there’s always this little nipple in the back of it that you blow on and sound comes out. Them’s the rules.
(By the way, if you want to buy a whistle, Mr. Samarelli has some rather nice and inexpensive ones in his shop in Rutigliano on Via Noicattaro, 245. See: Terracotte Samarelli)
The little Museo del Fischietto in Terracotta is found inside the library in Palazzo San Domenico in Rutigliano. You can go in there and see if they’ll open it up for you, but you might have to call. If you get in, it’s worth it. Trust me on this. There are rows and rows of little plexiglass cases full of whistles. The cases are designed to make photography interesting.
Carabinieri, priests (and large breasted women confessing their sins), as well as political figures are the most represented amongst the satirical whistles. Seeing Silvio Berlusconi rising up out of a toilet bowl creates little incentive to wrap your lips around the little nipple in back so you can blow the whistle on him. Or perhaps they’ve all been blown already. We suspect he has.
Whistles have, of course, been around for tens of thousands of years. According to tradition, the terracotta clay whistle is believed to be a message of love, a symbol of fertility. It is believed to bring good luck and to have the power of chasing away negative energies and the evil eye. It’s got a lot of responsibility in a world gone mad.
The best way to visit the Whistle Museum of Ritigliano? Well, you can go to the library and see if they’ll open it, or you can stay at a nearby bed and breakfast where they’ll call and arrange a visit for you.
(There is another museum devoted to whistles, the Museo dei Cuchi in Cesuna di Roana near Vicenza. Cuchi is just a variation on the word for whistle.)
By the way, you can click any of the pictures above to see them bigger. If you want.
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