Carrara and the marble quarries in Italy

On November 23rd, 2023, we explored the depths of the marble mountains, the Apuan Alps in Italy, which are rich in marble quarries.
In this way, we witnessed the intricate process of extracting Carrara Marble.

What is so special about Carrara Marble?

Carrara marble is renowned for its exquisite quality and aesthetic beauty. Its millennia-long history and use by renowned artists make it a symbol of elegance and sophistication in the world of art and architecture. Resilient and capable of precise craftsmanship, Carrara marble is a top choice for important sculptural and high-quality architectural works, classic and contemporary. The generic term “Carrara marble” encompasses various types of marble, including Calacatta, Statuario, Bianco di Carrara and many more.

The marble gallery in Italy: an underground quarry

Our journey began early in the morning with a guided visit to an underground marvel, the “Cava no. 84 – Galleria Ravaccione.” Precisely in this area, Michelangelo spent 3 years of his life to search the block he would use to sculpt the Pietà.

The access was allowed via a series of tunnels initially excavated for the “Marmifera” a train used decades ago to transport blocks. The gallery, when inside, revealed the mesmerizing beauty of being surrounded by living marble—underfoot, along the walls, and above! Our guide enlightened us on the unique quarrying process employed in marble galleries.

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The carrara marble quarrying process

The most common method for extracting Carrara marble is diamond wire cutting, introduced in the 1970s. This method utilizes a steel wire coated with diamond, enabling more precise cuts due to its hardness. Other less common methods include chain sawing, continuous drilling, disc cutters, and water jet cutters.

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Over time, the profession of the quarryman has undergone numerous changes, primarily due to technologies that have made the work less strenuous and safer. However, despite the advent of these technologies, the feeling of solitude remains: immersed in the depths of the galleries, quarrymen, in their isolation from the outside world, feel the embrace of the mountain strongly. In this context, they embark on a solitary dance of imagination, finding shapes and designs in the surrounding stone, giving life to a job that is truly an art.

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The open-air Italian marble quarry

By midday, we ascended to the “Cava no. 155 – Alvise Lazzareschi,” an open-air marble quarry perched over 2600 feet above sea level. The climb, aided by off-road vehicles, unveiled a breathtaking panorama.

Despite the mid-November date, the sun bathed us in warmth, accentuated by the brilliance of the reflecting white marble. The sight encompassed the town of Colonnata, known worldwide for another unique product, Lardo di Colonnata, which owes part of its exquisite flavor to marble: after its preparation and seasoning with salt and spices Lardo requires a resting period of at least six months inside large containers called “conche,” precisely crafted from Carrara marble.

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Surveying the extraction process in this open-air spectacle, we observed the division of the quarry into horizontal layers or benches. Accompanied by the quarry owner Alvise Lazzareschi, we observed vertical and horizontal drilling. Witnessing the meticulous separation of a colossal block underscored the scale of the operation.

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From marble mines in Italy to designer products:
an arduous journey

From extraction to the final packaging of our design products, marble processing is an arduous journey. The weight of a single block, the intricacies of quarrying, and the evident respect for the material throughout the production chain left a profound impression. Notably, no fragment of marble is discarded; even the byproducts find purpose, with Carrara marble’s natural composition (Calcium Carbonate) making its way into surprising applications, including toothpaste!

A special thanks goes to Marmotour Michelangelo and Alvise Lazzareschi for their professionalism and dedication in making our journey to the Carrara marble quarries unforgettable.

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