Carrara, Italy

The "Massa Carrara" marble quarries setting. The "snow" on the 6000' mountains to the lower left are the quarries. The Ligurean Sea to the upper right.

Definite signs of unique rocks on the shoreline!

and definitely in these "Apuan Alps"

These quarries have been the source of famous sculptures and, it sometimes seems, every bathroom floor in Italy.

All referred to as "Carrara marble", the colors and characteristics vary in the estimated 300 quarries. Bianco, venato, bardiglio, cremo, calacatta, fantastico and statuario (Michelangelo's favorite) are some examples of commercial marbles exported from this area since Roman times. In recent times approximately a million tons have been quarried each year and it is estimated that Carrara provides about 40% of the USA's demands for marble.

Some old quarrying tools displayed on a marble slab.

Some Geology

A compressive geologic event is illustrated in the rocks that had their origins as a late Triassic-Jurassic carbonate continental shelf that was metamorphosed and deformed in the mid-Tertiary during the Apennine mountain building event. The deformation is seen in the tilted rocks (shown in the model below from the Museo del Marmo in Carrara) and manifests itself as large recumbent folds on the scale of meters to kilometers. Sir Charles Lyell, in his 1870 "The Student's Elements of Geology," had this to say about the Carrara rocks, "Its great antiquity was inferred from its mineral texture, from the absence of fossils, and its passage downward into talc-schist and garnetiferous mica-schist; these rocks again graduating downward into gneiss, which is penetrated, at Forno, by granite veins. But the researches of MM. Savi, Boue, Pareto, Guidoni, De la Beche, Hoffman, and Pilla demonstrated that this marble, once supposed to be formed before the existence of organic beings, is, in fact, an altered limestone of the Oolitic period (part of the Jurassic), and the underlying crystalline schists are secondary sandstones and shales, modified by Plutonic action. In order to establish these conclusions it was first pointed out that the calcareous rocks bordering the Gulf of Spezia, and abounding in Oolitic fossils, assume a texture like that of Carrara marble, in proportion as they are more and more invaded by certain trappean and Plutonic rocks, such as diorite, serpentine, and granite, occurring in the same country."

Large blocks of the marble quarried high on the ridges are strew around all the roads in the area.

The marble continues to inspire artists.

And they are not small...

The artist who created the objects above is a congenial fellow who uses his electric grinder to make instant works of art out of marble scraps for tourists.

As you might suspect, Carrara is full of extraordinary objects and, as many of the classic marble chuches of Italy, it is accented by lines of darker rock, here I am "pretty certain" are marbles. (In many Italian churches it is often mafic to ultramafic rocks quarried from the oceanic crust and mantle materials brought to the surface by the compression).

But it is also used for practical purposes like this sea front cafe.

And, sometimes, more revered objects likeMichelangelo's Bacco...another lover of wine!