Thursday, June 27, 2013

Discover Carrara's Rich Marble History

Discover Carrara's Rich Marble History
The Carrara marble quarries have been in use for more than 2000 years. Carrara marble, found in northern Tuscany, is famous for its statuary quality, and has been used by many of the most famous sculpters in the world, such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Jacopo Della Quercia and Canova. The first notable era of extraction was during the Roman period. During the imperial age the demand for Carrara marble rose since it became the most requested type of stone for public buildings.
Michelangelo's David, made from Carrara Marble

Since then Carrara, Tuscany has been synonymous for its marble, which has been requested worldwide for buildings, statues and other objects. About  one million tons of Carrara marble are quarried each year.

The town of Carrara is not far from the marble quarries, and since its inception has been linked with the process of quarrying and marble working. Since Roman times marble has been exported all over the world from the harbour of Luni at the mouth of river Magra. After the unification of Italy, an important event characterized the local history of Carrara and its marble production - the construction of a railway to carry blocks of marble from the mountains to the plain.
The Lizzatura Process

From Roman times up to approximately 30 years ago, a process called lizzatura was used to move these heavy blocks from their lofty perch to sea level where they could then be transferred all over the world.  This involved the use of a large sledge ("lizza"), pulled by oxen. This very dangerous operation was controlled by experienced quarrymen.
Lardo di Colonnata Bacon

There is a Lizzatura Festival which takes place in the quarries in the basin of Colonnata, usually on an August Sunday, which celebrates and re-enacts this ancient method used to move the blocks. Usually, at the end of the morning, the event is closed with a very famous bacon-fat tasting event better known as Lardo di Colonnata. This type of bacon is a world renowned speciality of the village.

The stone-boat was a kind of sledge made with three big wooden trunks put next to each other and shaped like ski. Blocks of marble were laid on them weighing a total of 15-20 tonnes. In order to carry the blocks down the mountainside, the stone-boat was driven along the "vie di Lizza", or more frequently it was lowered down the "ravaneti". The stone-boat was held together by three big ropes partially coiled, which were then loosened slowly while a group of workers (named "lizzatori") laid a series of wooden slats in front of the stone boat. It was then loaded on oxcarts, which were used until the beginning of the XX century.  - Luxury Italian Cashmere, Bedding & Bath Linen

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