Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pietrasanta and Carrara marble

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...).








 

8 comments:

  1. The photos of the quarries are magnificent. I too love Carrara marble, and I agree that it's a bit odd that you couldn't find the cutting board of your dreams there. This must have been a fabulous vacation!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! It really was, Dana! Although the boys may feel they've overdosed on old churches...
      I originally wanted Carrara marble on my kitchen countertops, but was advised to choose the mineral composite as it's more stain resistant.

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  2. I agree the quarries are fascinating! It boggles my mind that marble has continuously be quarried since Roman times. How is there still so much left? And how is it that the mountain is still standing? Love the sculptures all around the town - wow! What a wonderful vacation!

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    Replies
    1. I know!!! How can there be mountains left?!? They even looked untouched, with their natural silhouette intact. The day we arrived, we actually wondered if the white parts we saw were snow, but soon found out they were the quarries! I would love to see them up close. Pietrasanta was truly wonderful. Alongside Lucca, a fortified town a bit further south, it was my favorite spot. Italy is amazing....

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