Biscotto di Sorrento
The kilns of Maiano
Not everyone knows that Maiano's Biscotto di Sorrento is one of the most ancient trades in the Sorrento Peninsula. This ancient trade, is so highly prized to woodfire pizza oven makers and owners, thanks to the properties of the very clay itself. In a document from the 1400s, Sorrento was already famed as being an area characterised with the production of roof tiles and pavers. Still visible on the roofs of houses in the Sorrento peninsula today, as well as other traditional clay objects like hot water tanks, grills, vases, money boxes and terracotta tubes.
The clay used to be extracted by hand, creating large holes (sometimes reaching 7-8 meters in depth) in and around the citrus orchards. These holes are again filled with less compact materials, such as our unused old clay, which in turn favours the rooting system of new citrus plants.
Until a few decades ago, all this was done through the work of 50-60 artisans and in some corners of Maiano village, there were large holes that often became a chance for children to play in. Unfortunately after World War Two, the production of roof tiles was phased out, due to factories substituting human labour with machinery elsewhere in Italy.
The work process of the oven base “Biscotto di Sorrento” is almost the same today as it was hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, or fortunately, various reasons have led to a lack of modernisation. Firstly, schooling was a privilege of very few and therefore, there was not a good level of education in families who had small businesses, because they entered the business without choice. After World War Two, there was a great demand for clay and bricks, where current bakeries were resuming business or new ones were setting up. It was precisely during this period, in order to satisfy the great demand, there was no time to modernise.
Shortly after, there was an overproduction of bricks and as a result, a heavy drop in price. It was this very moment where some sort of collaboration would have helped between the various brick making families. But we were almost always in conflict with each other.
We are now one of only two functioning kilns and Biscotto di Sorrento producers in operation within Maiano. There used to be seven only 60 years ago, providing employment to dozens of families, making it one of the most productive sectors in the Sorrento Peninsula. Today, the bricks and oven bases (Biscotto di Sorrento) that are produced by the craftsmen of Forni Aversa are used to build wood fired ovens for bakeries and pizzerias all around the world. Our bricks and Biscotto di Sorrento can be found worldwide, in every continent in over 100 countries.