A visit to the marble quarries of Carrara is perhaps like none other in Italy. We were invited on a private tour to check out the zone as part of a day which also included a couple of hours on a fishing boat with lunch from the port of Massa. Unfortunately, due to rough weather, the boat trip was cancelled giving us the opportunity of experiencing the whole territory from the narrow road leaving the town of Carrara all the way to a cloud level view of the whole zone towards Massa.
Carrara Marble Quarries
2000 years of activity
The quarrying of marble near the coastal town of Carrara in north west Tuscany has an unbroken two thousand year old tradition. What began in Roman times, continued at pace during the Renaissance, has survived to the present day. There may have been a few modern innovations in recent years, but the work is a hard and dangerous as it ever was. You can't appreciate the scale of the zone until you have been there.
Today, the majority of the marble is exported abroad. The main picture on this page is just one small quarry amongst many, each a concession and supplying slightly different qualities of raw material based on a precise demand.
Most impressive are the lorry drivers who shift the tons of stone driving up and down precipitous temporary roads. They don't stop for anyone as we were told by our driver as he piled on the gas to escape one determined driver on our tail and our image here shows.
Here's a little about the quarries of the Apuan Alps where exploitation occurs.
Cervaiole - Piastrone - Tendone
It is possible to reach these quarries from the road to Castelnuovo Garfagnana before reaching the Cipollaio tunnel. Since 1800 the white arabesque marble is extracted "open-air" or cut horizontally into the flank of the mountain.
Trambiserra - La Mossa - Tacca Bianca
Reachable from Seravezza to Riomagno-Malbacco along the river Serra. This is where the white statuary marble used by Michelangelo is found. He was actually the one who opened the Tacca Bianca quarry.
Collettino - Bozzo - Faniello - Tombaccio
Reachable from dust tracks after passing Arni. In addition to the white arabesque, also other types marble like the "fantastico" and the "breccia" are extracted here.
This is the most interesting and suggestive quarry as the white arabesque marble is extracted in tunnels underground. It is reachable from Levigliani through dust tracks.
Guided Visits of the Marble Quarries
Lunaetours based in Carrara offers half day excursions to the famous marble quarries for both individuals and groups. The tours can be organized by coach, minivan or even 4x4 vehicles depending on the size of group and preferences. Here is a summary of each type of excursion.
1. Guided tour of the marble quarries and discovery of lardo di Colonnata
An itinerary along the Valle di Colonnata where you will learn about the techniques of marble excavation as well as a visit to an ancient Roman quarry in the archaeological zone. The visit ends with a tasting of lardo di Colonnata in a 'larderia'.
2. Guided tour of the marble quarries by minivan or 4x4 jeep.
This tour winds its way along the huge marble rock faces of Carrara, the largest in the world. You will venture inside both an open quarry and closed 'galleria' where you will see the 'cavatori' at work. The visit will take you 1000 metres above sea level to admire a unique panorama and also includes an exhibition of the tools and machines used to excavate and transport the marble from Roman times to the present day.
3. Guided tour of the marble quarries and galleries.
An itinerary through the Miseglia Valley also called 'dei Fantiscritti' to visit an open air exhibition of the tools and machines used in ancient Roman times to extract and transport the marble. After this, a visit inside the mountain to explore the internal galleries, a unique experience.
4. Guided tour of the marble quarries and historical center of Carrara
The first part of this visit is a close up look at the marble rock faces to appreciate the extraction techniques and how marble has been transported from Roman times to the present day. Then the tour descends the mountain to Carrara for a visit of the city 'made of marble' and such landmarks as Castle of Malaspina and Cathedral but also houses, doorways, windows, squares. In Carrara, everything is made of marble!. A wine tasting with and local products can also be requested.
5. Guided tour of the marble quarries and sculpture studio
A visit of the marble rock faces will help you understand the the extraction techniques and how marble has been transported from Roman times to the present day and especially how a block of marble ends up in one of the many sculptor's atelier of the city. You will see the marble worked live, appreciate the skills and equipment used to produce a finished sculpture. Then its your turn to create your own masterpiece on a piece to show family and friends.
LUNAE TOURS is the inbound branch of Viaggi e Dintorni Travel Agency based in Carrara, north Tuscany. The experienced and local team specializes in visitor requests specific to the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre, Portofino, north Tuscany to Florence and the territory of Parma and Modena. The company use only professional and English-speaking local guides and selected quality services such as private driver transfers, hiking, cycling and cooking class suppliers. Both private or shared tours are proposed as well as short break or long stay packages, off the beaten track destinations and shore excursions from Livorno and La Spezia.
Visit of a Larderia in Carrara