A Sicilian Oil Jar and Its Ex, Looking for Love

January 31, 2011

I spied a lonely old oil jar lurking in a corner of Piero’s antique shop. “Pick me, pick me!” it breathed.

Sicilian Olive Oil Jar from the late 1800s, copyright Jann Huizenga

And so I did. It has found love in my bright kitchen. Dating from the late 1800s and used by Sicilians until about 1950, this jar isn’t much different from the ones the Greeks–who introduced olive trees to Sicily millenia ago–used for storing olive oil.

It wasn’t expensive. Everything in the antique shop owned by Piero Occhipinti (literally Peter Painted Eyes) is reasonable, and it’s the only such shop in Ragusa Ibla. (Of course you have to bargain, like you do for most everything in Sicily.) If you cannot make it to a Sunday flea market while you’re in Southeast Sicily, visiting Piero’s shop is a good substitute. He sells distressed violins, old books, baroque candlesticks, ornate desks, faded old pottery from Caltagirone. He’s rummaged around Sicily’s antique fairs since he was 10, so he knows what he’s doing.

Piero Occhipinti, Antique Dealer in Ragusa Ibla, Sicly, copyright Jann Huizenga

By the way, girls, Piero is single and looking…  (And not just for old Sicilian treasures.)


Piero Occhipinti Antiques, 335.539.6735, Via le Margherita, 11, Ragusa Ibla, Sicily. If his shop is locked up, you can usually find him refinishing furniture in his nearby laboratory on Via Orfanotrofio 51/53.

Sicilian Olive Oil Jar from late 1800s, copyright Jann Huizenga

A new home in my kitchen

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12 comments to A Sicilian Oil Jar and Its Ex, Looking for Love

  • Jann, what a beautiful find!This is the kind of stuff that makes for a grand kitchen! I would be happy as a clam to have a kitchen worthy of this little beauty!

    • Jann

      Friends here tell me the jar would look good “in a garden.” (I have no garden.) So I’m glad to have your stamp of approval, Bella!

  • cemal

    Ha…ha…ha…! After having been given detailed information about pottery history,this seems to be really fun….! Yes, I mean Piero….! As he has painted eyes, he is likely to find one, asap, Jann!

  • Josephine

    Jann: Have you ever seen the film KAOS by the Taviani Brothers? It is based on five of Pirandello’s stories that deal with peasant life in Sicily at the turn of the century. One of the stories, LA GIARA, is about an oil jar. The film is mostly filmed in Ragusa and surrounding area. You’ll need some free time to view it because it is approx. 3 hours long. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Enjoy your giara……it does look lovely in your kitchen. Ciao, Jo

    • Jann

      Josephine, that’s exactly what it reminds me of–the Pirandello “giara”–complete with staple. I love the film!

  • I can’t wait to have a place of my own so that I can fill it with all sorts of antique decor. Those oil jars have been at the top of my “future decorations” list for a long time. Kudos to you for adopting it into your home 🙂
    … I’ll pass on the dating info to some of my single American friends 😛

    • Jann

      Haley, you’ve probably been to the Catania flea market, where I’ve never been–just heard it’s wonderful! As for the jars, you can tell a perfectly intact one by clapping inside the jar and you should hear a sharp echo. Mine is not perfect–it has a little staple in it to repair an old crack, so that was part of the reason it was cheap.

  • Mmmm…yummy! The jar is nice, too.

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