After Cinque Terre, we drove south into Tuscany, where we stayed for a few days in the fin de siècle seaside resort of Viareggio. We stayed in a small hotel with only seven rooms, which constantly made me think of the pensione in E. M. Forsters "A room with s view", which was filmatized in 86 (directed by James Ivory). It's an extremely aesthetic movie taking place in Florence. If you haven't seen it, you must!
Viareggio has the Apuan mountains as a beautiful backdrop. This is where the famous Carrara marble is quarried. The highlight for me during our stay there was a daytrip to Pietrasanta. It's a wonderful city a 40 minute drive inland from Viareggio, and has been a Mecca for sculptors, with it's easy access to Carrara marble. It's situated at the foot of the Apuan mountains, very close to the quarries. Pietrasanta became important during the 15th century, mostly for its connection with the gorgeous stone. Michaelangelo himself, the greatest sculptor of all time, recognized the beauty of the Carrara white marble, not only did he use it for his own sculptures but he also worked in the quarries.
Today, there are sculpture workshops all over town. The town itself is an open air gallery, with lots of great sculptures scattered around the piazzas, and not only marble ones. The ones on the Piazza del Duomo, if I understood it right, are changed periodically.
Il Pugliatore (the boxer) by Francesco Messina (Carrara bianco)
Alveoli by Rabarama, 2013 (Carrara bianco) Notice the hexagonal surface.
Pugno Autoritratto, Divition 111 by Bernard Bezzina, 2012 (bronze)
Fernando Botero's bronze sculpture in the background. The columbian artist is a resident of Pietrasanta.
The Piazza del Duomo
Ikaro caduto by Igor Mitoraj (bronze)
Pietrasanta is a jewelry box of beautiful medieval buildings, amongst others the Duomo di San Martino, built in the 14th century, with the brick bell tower from the same period, which has remained incomplete as it was intended to be clad in marble, like the duomo. Alas, the Duomo was closed when we were there, I would have loved to see the interior.
The raw material. The quarries are the white spots on the mountain sides, it's not snow!
The area containing the Carrara quarries is the worlds oldest industrial site still in operation, marble has been quarried continuously since roman times. Isn't that fascinating? Today, the around 300 marble quarries extract marble that is shipped to all corners of the world. But do you think I found the Carrara chopping board I've been lusting for? Oh no! There wasn't a single marble souvenir to be seen. A bit strange, don't you think?
I have a thing for indiustrial sites, places where the landscape has been shaped by man and processes. The phenomenon has a very obvious duality, maybe that's part of the fascination? I would have loved to visit the marble quarries, but they are not open to the public. I found some pretty amazing images by Edward Burtynsky, though, one of my favorite photographers, who shares my fascination. The images are from his web site. His work is very interesting. We did see, however, lots of sites along the autostrada with huge blocks of marble ready to be shipped across the globe (my pictures above, Burtynsky's below. I guess that goes without saying...).