The Art of Italian Candle Making

Italy is known around the world for its rich artistic heritage in mediums like painting, sculpture, and architecture. However, one unique Italian art form that often gets overlooked is the art of candle making. The skill and craftsmanship that goes into creating beautiful, artistic candles has been cultivated in Italy for centuries.

Candle making first became popular in Italy during the Middle Ages. At that time, candles were expensive and considered a luxury item. Italian candle supplier developed their skills to create elaborate candles for churches, noble households, and the wealthy. Over the centuries, the candle making tradition was passed down through generations and candle shops could be found throughout Italy.

What makes Italian candle making stand out as an art form is the intricate designs, colors, and shapes. Vibrant colors and color gradients are achieved by carefully pouring and layering colored wax. Elegant patterns and shapes are created using molds and by painstakingly carving the wax by hand once cooled. Gold and silver leaf, beads, and other adornments are affixed for a glamorous touch. The candles take on the look of edible treats, flowers, animals, religious icons, and more.

One region renowned for its artistic candles is Torino in northern Italy. Torinese candle makers have mastered the techniques for making vibrant candies with swirling color patterns that resemble pralines. These prismatic prismati candles are made by pouring alternating colored wax layers into a mold at an angle. Another specialty in Torino is geometric diamond-shaped candles with a faceted look.

In Florence, candles shaped like fruit are popular. Skilled candle makers create collections of realistic looking waxed fruit. Grapes and lemons bursting with color are some of the most lifelike designs. For Christmas, intricate nativity scene candles are a Florentine tradition.

On Italy’s Amalfi Coast, a hub for ceramics, candles shaped like ceramic vases and jars are ubiquitous. Luminaries resembling glazed terracotta pots glowing from within are part of the local aesthetic. The ceramics influence translates to uniquely shaped candles like octagonal pillars similar to majolica designs.

For weddings and celebrations, ornate sculptural candles take center stage. Towering spiral candles called twist meletti are displayed throughout Italian receptions. The twisting pillars are formed by rolling a sheet of wax into a spiral and adhering it vertically with wax dollops. Other sculptural candles include life-like figurine candles molded into the forms of people, saints, animals, and mythological creatures.

Beyond shaped candles, Italians create candles with artisanal attention to color, scent, and materials. Pigments derived from flower petals, roots, spices, and herbs create natural dye effects. Signature scents like lime, tangerine, and lavender are achieved by adding essential oils. Materials like beeswax or soy wax lend qualities like shine or opacity. No detail is spared in pursuit of candles as objets d’art.

The historic candle making heritage persists today both commercially and in small artisanal workshops. In the village of Santa Maria Maggiore, nestled in the Piedmont mountains, local artists craft candles by hand using ancient techniques. In Sicily, the splendid colors of fruits, flora, and sunlight inspire vibrant hues and patterns. Across the country, many candle makers use the same methods handed down over generations to keep the treasured art form alive.

With its long, rich history and culture of artistry, it’s no wonder Italy produces some of the world’s most beautiful, highest quality artisan candles. An Italian candle is more than just a source of light – it is a handcrafted work of art. The next time you light a candle, choose one made by Italy’s talented candle makers and enjoy the glow of a small masterpiece.