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Carrara’s Marble Mountains

  • Carrara’s Marble Mountains

    The northern coast is overshadowed by the marble industry. Even the beaches are dominated by the majestic marble peaks of the Apuan Alps glittering deceptively like snow in bright sunshine. In the Apuan Alps awaits the marble town of Carrara, with several quarries offering guided tours and workshops. Carrara is 17 km north of Forte dei Marmi so easily reached in under half an hour. The fine-grained pure white marble for which Carrara is renowned has been quarried here since Roman times. Italian medieval churches are decorated with marble from Carrara, and it has supplied artists from Michelangelo to Henry Moore with raw material. Formed from limestone, hardened by great pressure and heat, Carrara marble is still the world’s single largest and most important source of the stone. About 200 quarries are still functioning, while over a thousand have been worked out or abandoned. Since the Parco Apuane has been given national park status, opposition by environmentalists to the speed of extraction has heightened. However, the quarry owners continue to fight back in protection of their tough and fearless employees.

    The marble quarries are scattered across three steep valleys, the Colonnata, Fantiscritti and Ravaccione. Here, the villages cling to the mountainside that has been sliced away like chunks of cheese. The Cava di Fantiscritti quarry makes for a good introduction to marble, as does the strange journey there. You drive through a series of stark tunnels that were used by marble-transporting trains until the 1960s, when trucks took over. En route there are extraordinary views down into the quarries, where precarious-looking staircases are strung across the sides, and massive trucks trundle across the marble surface far below. Once on the guided tour, prepare to be startled by the dank, foggy and slippery marble quarries that are often more like caverns. On display are strange marble blocks that look distinctly unlike the polished perfection of the final artwork.

    Address: Cava di Fantiscritti, via Miseglia Fantiscritti,
    Carrara: book with Marmotour
    Tel: +39 339 7657470 www.marmotour.com 
    Cave di Marmo Tours www.cavedimarmotours.com

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