TooMuchVersilia Tuscany Off-the-beaten Path

The Marble Quarries of Carrara and the Miracolous Lardo

Marble Quarries in Carrara

If you go to Carrara you must take a tour to the famous quarries of white marble, right off the city center. But first there is something you should know about it.

The marble quarries of Carrara

As I said before Carrara is renowned for its marble that is extracted since Roman times and probably even before. Since 5th century b.C. it was used to built monuments, buildings and works of art.

The Apuan Alps

The Apuan Alps

Marble Quarries

Marble Quarries

All the famous sculptors came to Carrara to get this precious marble over the centuries.  The most renowned artist is certainly is Michelangelo, who came here in 16th century to choose the best marble to create his stunning Pietá. But Michelangelo is just one of the thousands of artists that came, and still are coming, to Apuan Alps, such as Canova and Cattelan.

Nowadays there are 105 marble quarries in activity out of 188 censused, that are extracting more than 5 millions of marble tons every year. And every day about 1000 trucks loaded with marble depart from the quarries.

The marbleous tour of Carrara quarries

First off, Carrara marble quarries are a real working place and not Disneyland. Said that, you should take a tour to visit this stunning place and you cannot explore the area by yourself, because it could be dangerous.

There is only one tour company licensed to do that, and it’s probably the best tour you’ll do off-the-beaten paths. This is Cave di Marmo Tour owned by Gabriele who is The Guide and not just a guide.

Gabriele  knows Carrara and its history perfectly, as well as the area, the people and traditons. I think he was a carrettiere in his previous life and to know why you should know him.

Marmo Tour

Marmo Tour

Marble quarries landscape

Marble quarries landscape

Michelangelo's cave

Michelangelo’s cave

The quarries tour starts on board of a green Land Rover, that will soon shake like a washing machine while exploring the quarries. First stop is Cava Gioia, one of the largest quarries at about 1100 meters over the sea level. To reach it we climbed up the Apuan Alps following huge dumpers overloaded with marble.

Then we reached Cava Ciresuola driving through the streets of trucks that look like snakes of asphalt. Actually the basement is made of huge blocks of marble then covered with asphalt. When it rains hard roads collapse frequently and have to be rebuilt quickly to get workers back home.

While over there you can see huge trucks and bulldozers working to extract marble. I felt extremily tiny because of them and because of the massive blocks. In addition the view is breathtaking: the white color of marble is bright and in perfect contrast with the dark colors of the Apuan Alps. It looks like a lunar landscape, it’s incredible.

Other two stops are included in the tour: Cava Polvaccio and CavaBombarda. The last one is better known as Cava of Michelangelo since it was here that Michelangelo got the marble. Before to leave you’ll also explore the inner part of quarries driving through dark tunnels  underneath the mountains.

Marble quarries

Marble quarries

The miracle of Lardo di Colonnata

Colonnata is a tiny village in the middle of marble quarries. It was the home town of marble workes who inveted the delicious Lardo, that was the perfect food for a day out in the quarries providing defences against cold temperature and lots of enegy.

Lard is made out of the fat of pig’s shoulder and neck. Slices of lard are then placed inside large squared cases of marble and covered with a first layer of sea salt, a layer of aromatic herbs (rosmarine, santoreggia montana a local herb, laurel oak, garlic) and a layer of spices (pepper, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg and cloves). And then start all over again until the marble case is full. The case is closed for the next six months and let chemistry do the rest. Actually chemistry makes the trick getting Lardo of Colonnata a miracle: bad cholesterol disappear turning lard into a precious help for your health.

Lardo di Colonnata

Lardo di Colonnata

At Bottega La Stazione, right outside Colonnata, you can see hoe lard is make, as well as tasting it together with local hams and cheeses.

TooMuchTips

  • Take the Quarries Tour – marble quarries as I said, are a working place and a pretty dangerous one. Gabriele has special agreements with marble quarries to arrange the access to quarries in the safest way. You cannot tour quarries alone and cheaper tours don’t have insurance and won’t take you inside the quarries.
  • Shop for marble – on the way to quarries there are few marble shops that have everthing made out of marble at incredibly cheap prices.
  • Shop for Lardo – it’s produced locally, you can see how it’s made and prices are really reasonable.

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Tiana (@TianaKaiMiami)
    August 23, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I wish I bought more marble things…if they weren’t so heavy I would have! Great article!

    • Reply
      TooMuchVale
      August 25, 2014 at 10:45 am

      I wished I bought the David’s mouth and more Lardo. But now I have a good excuse to go back 🙂

  • Reply
    GirlinFlorence
    August 25, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    love love love this article Valentina, you captured our adventure so perfectly and I do agree that the visit was very much like a ‘washing machine’ ;-). I have already put my mortar and pestle to use whipping up some guacamole! I hope we get to go on more adventures together 🙂

    • Reply
      TooMuchVale
      August 26, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Well I should try your guacamole and see if the mortar works well, before to buy mine 😀

  • Reply
    Paula Lindquist
    October 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    How how much is the marble tour for six of us? We are resident s in Firenze teaching at the interna school. We are hoping to find an affordable price for this Saturday.

    • Reply
      TooMuchVale
      October 20, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      Hi Paula, I strongly recommend you contact directly Gabriele and his company by email to info@cavedimarmotours.com or call 3284156084. Hope they’ve room for you 🙂

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