One of J.’s favorite places in the world is Carrara. He loves the history, the industry, the artistry and the natural beauty of Carrara. From our first visit 11 years ago he has been entranced with the process of pulling Carrara marble from the mountainside. This year while traveling with friends, staying in Lucca, it was mandatory there be a visit to Carrara, Italy.
Taking the train to La Spezia it is impossible not to see the Carrara mountains from the tracks, or from the highway. The white covered mountains tower over the city and stand in stark contrast to the vibrant blue Tuscan sky. At first it seems the mountains are snow covered until someone points out that it is in fact just the white Carrara marble.
In the 1400’s Michelangelo sat for eight months waiting for the perfect piece of marble to carve one of the greatest works he ever created, Pieta-the Virgin Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica. There are letters he would send back to Rome complaining about how long he had been waiting there for this piece of marble. For us this is a really incredible story and experience, sitting where this master of art sat, and watching the same process (granted it is more modernized now) as he did.
Eleven years ago when we visited Carrara we were able to get really close to the operations, now they have started to block some of the paths to protect tourists. J. drove our little Fiat 500 off-road, determined to get as close as possible. He climbed the mountain in the little car and reached an area of marble dust and beautiful green trees. The view into the valley was stunning, gorgeous little town, deep valley, beautiful trees, and sharp mountains were all waiting to be taken in by anyone daring enough to make the trek.
Each day semi-trucks drive to the top, their beds are loaded with massive slabs of beautiful Carrara marble and then slowly the trucks drive down the windy, narrow roads with these massive slabs, through long dark tunnels, carved out of the mountains hundreds of years ago, over an amazing bridge and into the town of Carrara where they are then further processed to their final destinations. It is quite an impressive operation and one definitely worth seeing.
A short drive from Carrara is also the small town of Colonnata, famous for its production of the delicacy known as Lardo. As a vegetarian Colonnata isn’t the best place for me to eat, and I think it would be impossible for a vegan, but J. insists on partaking every time we visit. The town is tiny but packed with charm and breathtaking views of the Apuan Alps. The ancient stone buildings tightly packed together along the tiny cobblestone streets quickly whisk you away from reality, and seem to wrap their arms around you inviting you to stay.
Lying below the Colonnata and the Carrera marble quarry’s is the city of Carrara. Eleven years ago we were able to watch as the sculptors transformed the pieces of marble into beautiful masterpieces. Now this has been closed off to tourists, however the town does host events where sculptors will come out into the streets for people to watch them as they create incredible pieces. This year there was a week long competition on the street with artists working with their hands, and lasers (which was kind of disappointing) to create beautiful works of art.
The city of Carrara has some nice shopping, beautiful views of the Apuan Alps, nice Piazza’s with beautiful sculptures and handsome buildings. We always stop and walk around, then have a coffee before getting back on the highway to Lucca.
Getting to Carrara from anywhere in Tuscany is quite simple. Take the A1 Autostrada follow the signs to Carrara. There are signs to Colonnata so just follow those and you will see the marble quarries and then can continue on to Colonnata from there. Follow the signs back to Carrara and then to the Autostrada from there.
I have to give credit to J. for almost all of the pictures in this post. Pretty good isn’t he?!