Carrara – Massa – Pietrasanta going through Michelangelo Buonarroti from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Apuane Alps: a short step
Carrara is famous worldwide for its quarries, close to the Apuane Alps, from which the finest white or blue-gray marble is extracted.
The town developed out of the lodgings which the Romans built for the workers: the actual work of extracting marble began at the time of Julius Caeser (48 – 44 B.C.). Carrara supplied the blocks of white marble for the construction of the most important public buildings in Rome ,as well as for the many palaces belonging to noble families. As the blocks were loaded at Luni Harbour, the marble came to be called “Lunense marble”.
In the 5th century extraction slowed down because of barbaric invasions, but with the growth of Christianity the demand for marble flourished. As it was used not only for the construction but also for internal decorations of churches and other religious buildings.
It was, however, during the renaissance that the white marble of Carrara came to be universally known and appreciated, thanks, mostly, to the intelligent promotion of Alberico I Cybo- Malaspina, Prince of Carrara and Duke of Massa: his personal prestige and his contacts with the most important cultured people of his time enabled him to bring to Carrara the most important Renaissance artists whose work definitely sanctioned the consecration of the Apuan marble in European art and architecture. The greatest artist of all, Micheangelo Buonarroti, used to come personally to Carrara to choose and supervise the extraction of the blocks that he needed for his statues.
The most important monuments in Carrara are the Cathedral and Palazzo Ducale which now houses the Academy of fine Arts.
Carrara is also known as the capital of Italian anarchism. On the 12th of January 2007 Carrara was awarded a gold medal for its contribution in the fight against Nazi-Fascism during 1943-45.
From a cultural and geographic point of view this district has always been considered a very rich part of the area known as “Historic Lunigiana“.
Quarries are places where for many centuries the excavation and processing of marble has been going on. There are two types of quarries: open ones and closed ones.
The way in which the marble is removed,
the depth of perspective of the white walls, the wide spaces, the accuracy of symmetric steps seem to be the steps in an amphitheater.
Extracting marble from a quarry has been a continuous evolution of dramatic, living documents throughout the centuries, from primitive wooden wedges, to the Romans’ system of cutting, the revolutionary wire coil and on to the current diamond wire so fast and so dangerous. Among the sinuous crevices and the steep white “ravines”, the miners work, skillfully and tenaciously: cutting, grinding and reducing the marble into little blocks to send around the world.
Excavation and processing the marble is a highly specialized operation and, in recent times, it has undergone significant transformation, whereas the techniques had remained virtually unchanged even after the discovery of gunpowder, the use of which proved more harmful than beneficial.Only subsequently, with the use of landmines that are still in use, could large blocks of marble be removed without damaging the product.
The real revolution in the extraction technique took place at the end of the 19th century with the invention of the helical wire and penetrating pulley, a steel disc that runs on a tool rack, enters the marble and forces the wire in the groove, thus cutting off the block.
It is worthwhile to visit the spectacular caves, the breathtaking landscapes and the interior: their unique and extraordinary beauty, the home of the finest marble in the world (also recently chosen as the background of some scenes in the movie “James Bond 007 – Quantum of Solace”).
Trucks at work at the Quarries
”Massa” is the first known name of this medieval town and it probably means “farm land”. The original settlement – probably called “Massa Lunense” – seems to have developed after the fall of Luni, a nearby town, which depended on a bishopric. Subsequently, Massa became a Marquisate, having long been ruled by Marquis Malaspina , and later still Massa Cybea after the Genoese family Cybo, who succeeded the Malaspinas. In 800, after its annexation to the Duchy of Modena , it acquired the name “Massa Ducale”.
The fortification of the hill on which the castle stands started around the year 1000, under the rule of the Obertenghi family who owned several domains in Corsica and Sardinia.
At the beginning of the thirteenth century Massa was the object of bitter fighting for predominance in the city; the castle, then dominated by the Pisans, was taken over by the Florentines, then passed on to the Republic of Lucca until 1442, when Alberico 1 Malaspina, Marquis of Fosdinovo, started his family dynasty that ruled the Marquisate. His daughter Ricciarda succeeded him in 1519 and when she married Lorenzo Cybo, a Genoese nobleman, the house of Malaspina was united with the illustrious Ligurian family Cybo – well known in the Roman Curia because Pope Innocent V11, the protector of Christopher Colombus , was born in Liguria.
The marriage of Ricciarda and Lorenzo Cybo marks the beginning of an important lineage that soon paid off, thanks to Alberico Cybo, the son of Lorenzo and Ricciarda, who inherited the Marquisate in 1553, proving himself the real innovator in Massa’s court. Thanks to his creative talents and excellent political skill, Alberico Cybo gave a significant boost to the town, both as an administrator and as an economist, thus bringing it fame and lustre.
In 1568, the Emperor Maximilian 11 elevated Alberico to the rank of Prince of the Holy Roman Emperor, and about half a century later, the Emperor Ferdinand 11 raised Massa to the rank of City. Alberico the Great died in 1623 aged 94, and left the throne to his nephew (or grandson, Lina. Please check) Charles 1, after which the principality passed on to his son Alberico 11 who died in 1690 leaving the throne to Charles 11. It is to this last-named ruler, Charles 11, or rather to his wife Teresa Pamphili, a Roman noblewoman, that we owe the final layout of the palace with its grotesque monumental “Neptune” fountain, the chapel frescoed by Natale Pellegrini, and the beautiful alcove, all done by the architect Bergamini.
Pietrasanta, the historical capital of Versilia, is a small town in the province of Lucca. Its reputation as an international center for processing marble and bronze makes it a crossroads for sculpters from all over the world.
The central part of the old town, with its ancient well-kept monuments, have made Pietrasanta a regular city of art, with numerous art galleries, exhibitions and seasonal events in the Piazza del Duomo, the Bell Tower designed by Michelangelo and in the church of Saint Augustine.
Great artists such as the sculptures Fernando Botero, Igor Mitoraj, Gio Pomodoro have made of Pietrasanta their permanent home.
Pietrasanta is also attractive for its vast selection of good restaurants offering a particular cuisine, as well as for its high-quality shops.