The white marble of Carrara is one of the most valuable rocks in the world. So much so that people call it white gold. Ever since the Copper Age, but especially during the Roman Empire, precious white marble has been extracted from Carrara marble quarries. Its main use is in the construction of important buildings, royal palaces, temples, and mosques, but also in handcrafted artistic creations.
Today some of the richest men in the world still buy marble to adorn their luxury villas, yachts, and important buildings all around the globe.
The Apuan Alps above Carrara count more than 650 quarry sites. But half of these are inactive or abandoned. This is the place on the planet with the most intensive production of marble in the world. This is the reason why Carrara is recognized as the capital of the extraction and processing of marble.
What makes the white marble quarries of Carrara unique?
There are many things that make this place unique in the world. Here are seven reasons:
1. What is Carrara marble made of?
Considering the mineralogy and chemical aspects, this marble is the result of a metamorphosis of sedimentary carbonate rocks at 99% which makes it the purest in its category. Carrara marble is pure calcium carbonate. Having a crystalline structure, it is perfect for use in architecture and sculpture.
2. The environmental scenario
If you pass nearby Carrara during summer, looking at the mountains, you would be uncertain if what you see is snow. Of course, it is not. You will be admiring the Carrara marble glistening in the sun’s rays. And if you decide to visit the quarries, you will enter a lunar scenario. An environment where everyday workmen risk their life, fighting with nature to extract the precious white gold.
3. Michelangelo’s favorite marble
Michelangelo, one of the Renaissance masters, has been several times to the quarries of Carrara. He personally wanted to choose the best blocks to sculpt his most famous artworks. For example, he made the Pietà, kept in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, with a marble block from Carrara. Michelangelo had a colossal dream: to sculpt an enormous artwork directly on the facade of the mountain. So that all the ships coming from the sea would have seen it. Something similar to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Unfortunately, he did not succeed.
4. James Bond set for 007 Quantum of Solace
The white marble quarries of Carrara have been often used as set for many advertising or movie. Among the many, the most popular in the world is an episode of 007, Quantum of Solace by Marc Forster. In the opening scene, a confident Daniel Craig is driving the famous Aston Martin through a hazardous hairpin turn.
5. Lardo di Colonnata
The storage and curing of the Lardo di Colonnata are unique as unique is the white marble from the quarries of Carrara. The marble mold is made from a specific type of marble processed by the marble worker Canaloni, originally from the town of Colonnata. This is the best material for the Lard curing process.
6. What is Calacatta Marble?
Calacatta Marble is a type of marble that comes from Carrara quarries. A gray veining is its distinguishing feature. Artisans usually use Calacatta marble to make classic stylish countertops.
7. How much do marble countertops cost?
A Carrara marble countertop could cost € 113-€226 /$125-$250 per square meter/foot.
8. The historical center of Carrara
The historical center of Carrara is an explosion of colors, especially the Piazza Alberica. If you wish to visit Carrara downtown, this little guide may help you: Carrara and its White Gold.
Cover Photo Credits: Simone Moracchioli