A few months ago, I had the chance to experience the Italian Carrara marble mountains which produce more tons of marble than anywhere else on Earth! This month, I take you with me on this unique trip discovering inside the marble quarries and what makes this white gold so special.
What do the buildings of Harvard Medical School, the Oslo Opera House, the Marble Arch in London and Michelangelo’s David have in common? The white gold of Carrara, of course!
WHAT MAKES ITALIAN CARRARA MARBLE SO SPECIAL?
Carrara marble is one of the most prestigious marbles in the world, renowned from the Ancient Roman times to today’s most exclusive interior designers and architects. Because of its millenial history, the Italian Carrara marble quarries have produced more marble than any other place on earth! The market as a whole is worth over $1 billion and produces over 6 million tons of marble every year. This Summer, I had the chance to personally visit the outstanding white marble quarries of Carrara, which are so beautiful that were even featured in a James Bond movie, with Daniel Craig driving an Aston Martin DBS up the marble slopes.
DISCOVERING THE MARBLE QUARRIES
Driving on the Tuscan coast that connects Genoa to Lucca, it’s easy to mistake the vast bright white mountainsides as glaciers. But when getting closer you realize what appears as snow are actually enormous open-air quarries – the tips of the icebergs, as there are equally enormous underground quarries with caverns the size of cathedrals. As we hop on to a 4×4 Land Rover Defender, the road becomes very steep as we make progress going deeper into the Apuan Alp mountains and further away from the Ligurian Sea, whilst crossing big lorries that are loaded with marble blocks.
In the middle of the bright white marble, huge yellow earthmoving machines look like little toys amongst the monumental quarries, and in the distance, the highest quality of pure white marble used by sculptors such as Michelangelo and found only in the Fantiscritti quarries contrasts with the closer grey marble.
And here lies the value behind different types of marble – some marbles will be more expensive than others depending on how they are extracted and on their veins. Here in Carrara, the massive 350-ton marble blocks are extracted with chainsaw machines and cables made with diamonds, and then carefully divided into smaller blocks. It’s a very delicate process and it takes about a week to extract a 350-ton block.
Another interesting fact is that the colour of the marble depends on the sediments, and in Italy there are the pink marbles of Lucca, the green marbles of the Aosta valley, and the black marbles of La Spezia to name a few. Around Carrara, the marble is white, and what is special is that the geological structure is such that the marble deposits extend over 58 km and reach 2,000 metres in height, in this ancient group of mountains that was formed 190 million years ago.
Discovering both the open-air and interior marble quarries has given a completely new dimension to appreciating all the work and risks involved in obtaining this natural stone. The combination of immense nature and industrial machinery makes these architectural landscapes almost surreal and completely worth visiting when in Italy! You can check out my top marble furniture choices for your home here!
DO YOU LOVE MARBLE TOO? HAVE YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO VISIT THE ITALIAN CARRARA MARBLE MOUNTAINS, OR IS IT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST? I’D LOVE TO KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!