Used for the Pantheon, Trajan’s Column, and Michelangelo’s David in Rome, Carrara marble was valued above all other stone. The mountains were first exploited by Julius Caesar with origins from the 2nd century BC. Located in the northernmost tip of modern-day Tuscany, this blue-grey or white high quality-marble is coveted by artisans and used worldwide.
The ruling Cybo and Malaspina families established the “Office of Marble” in 1564 to regulate the marble mining industry. By the end of the 19th century, the quarry workers were among the most neglected laborers in Italy. Revolutionists from Belgium and Switzerland had come to Carrara in 1885. Anarchy was in full swing when Carrara workers led Italy’s Lunigiana Revolt in 1894.
The province of Massa-Carrara in the Apuan Alps is a year-round paradise for nature lovers and tourists. The white peaks, often mistaken for snow-capped mountains, can be seen from the picturesque towns of Pontremoli, Vivizzano and Aulla below. The road to the MarmoTours site winds steeply upward through beautiful mountainous vistas.
More than 600 other mines sit in the Alps, most of which are closed, given they have produced more marble than any other place in the world. Carrara is about an hour and a half from Florence by car or two hours by train. Private excursions are available on line, or call (888) 651-9785 or +39 348 7737715. Advance reservations are required: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Year round tours are conducted by multilingual guides by van or on foot and are family friendly. Expect extra cool temperatures (average 48.2º-66.2ºF) at this 6,385 foot elevation, and expect to get “suited up” in reflective vests so the guides can keep track of you in the dark caves.
Activity level is easy during the 3 or 7-hour tours. Wear flat, closed toe shoes; you will be outfitted in a reflective vest and helmet and ride a tram to the inside of the caves.
When we went, we left the tram in a cavern of a room with ceilings so high and walls so wide it dwarfed a monumental backhoe in the room. An escort explained in 50mph Italian all about everything. When asked to translate for us, she obliged with 50mph English.
Exhausted from a full day of exquisite scenery and cavern atmosphere and education, we thankfully sank into one of our self-catering easy dishes in our Untours apartment on the Florence Untour. Our day in Carrara was a day well spent.
California-born Betty Albert is a freelance writer, journalist, blogger, naturopath, and
author who contributes articles to local newspapers and magazines. Her Italian heritage helps her to hold dear the art and science of good eating, healthy living and those who make it so. Betty has a 20-year corporate history with AT&T, another 20 with professional photography, and a love affair with organic gardening fed by her certified naturopathic practice. Betty has devoted her senior years to updating and sharing researched articles, interviews with interesting people and travel stories.
Ever wonder where that giant eggplant came from? Or what a day in the life of a gondolier looks like? Or need a New Look at Knee Problems? You can find answers on her blog, bettyalbertchronicles.com. Lost in Italy and Loving It…a 30 Day Adventurous Memoir is her e-book published in 2013, available on Amazon.com/kindle.