Dear traveller friends,
today I’m going to show you a destination which is both unusual and fascinating.
You can choose this destination for a one-day tour, or include it in your Gran Tour of Tuscany. Today we are going to the western part of Tuscany. This area is farther than all the other cities of our tour, but it’s worth the visit.
I want to talk to you about Carrara, its famous marble quarries, and Colonnata and its renowned lard.
How to get there
As I already said, this area is quite far from the other points of interests. To get to Carrara, you need to take the highway to Massa. Once outside the highway, head towards Carrara, drive through the entire town and head to Fantiscritti, the focal point for the organized tours of the quarries.
Colonnata is a little further, beyond the marble quarries. You can reach it from Fantiscritti in about fifteen minutes.
Carrara’s Marble Quarries
In a Grand Tour of Tuscany, made of magnificent monuments, towns rich in history, works of art renowned all over the world and breath-taking landscapes, the visit to a marble quarry seem strange or even clashing.
However, the marble quarries have a fascinating effect on the visitors. Here is where everything begins. Since Roman times, Carrara’s marble was renowned for its beauty, that’s why it was extracted and used to build palaces and sculptures. The blocks extracted from those quarries over the centuries have become timeless masterpieces in the hands of the masters.
The landscape created by the quarries, with the dazzling white making a contrast over the green of the mountains and the blue of the sea, is in itself an attraction which will leave the visitor openmouthed.
The simplest solution to visit the quarries is to participate in one of the organized tours. Some leave directly from Carrara while others leave from Fantiscritti or nearby areas.
Unfortunately, these tours aren’t well organized. If you browse through the various websites, you’ll find it challenging to find information about prices, which is in itself quite discouraging. The second problem is that you aren’t allowed to book your tour in advance unless you are part of a large group. The jeeps used for the tours have eight places each. So not being able to book a tour in advance may force you to wait for many hours.
My wife and I were deeply disappointed by Marble Tour. They gave priority to a group of fifty people and asked us to wait for more than two hours. Their competitor nearby was closed, so we decided to take a quick tour by ourselves instead of going all the way back to Carrara.
If you decide to tour the quarries on your own, for security reasons, you are not allowed in many areas.
However, you can reach Fossa Cava. From here, you can see an incredible landscape and visit a short path with several explanatory panels, telling the visitor about the extraction of marble during Roman times.
To reach this suggestive panoramic viewpoint, you need to head from Fantiscritti towards Colonnata and turn left when you see the sign for Fossa Cava.
Obviously, if you manage to buy a ticket for a guided tour, you’ll be able to enjoy the marble quarries to the fullest. However, if you are as unlucky as us, you’ll know what to do.
Colonnata is a hamlet of the nearby Carrara. It’s perched on top of a mountain overlooking the marble quarries. The village develops in a maze of narrow alleyways not accessible to cars. Park as soon as you reach the borders of the village and take a walk among alleys and stairs until you reach the cliff overlooking the quarries.
Colonnata is quite small. You can easily tour it on foot in a short time. Don’t forget to climb the stairway leading to the Monumento al Cavatore, a monument dedicated to the quarrymen.
Before leaving, let the famous lard of Colonnata tempt you. What makes this product so special is the particular method of storing and preserving it. The lard is placed for months in unique marble basins, forming layers with herbs and spices. The specific conditions of temperature and humidity inside the basins make the lard of Colonnata unique.
You will find typical “larderie” at every corner. In these shops, you’ll discover lard and other typical products. You can buy a delicious souvenir of lard in a vacuum-sealed package, so you can enjoy it at home with leisure. Or you can ask the shopkeeper to prepare you a sandwich to eat while you admire the view over the quarries.
Once concluded the tour to the marble quarries and Colonnata, if you still have time and energy you can devote a couple of hours to Carrara. The town isn’t as fascinating as Siena or Florence, but it’s worth some time.
The symbol of Carrara is the Cathedral of Saint Andrew, a building with over a thousand years of history. Obviously, it was built in Carrara marble. The inside is quite austere, even if there are several marble altars.
Another interesting attraction is the Civic Museum of Marble. Here the visitor can trace the history of this material from the ancient times up to the present day.
With the Civic Museum of Marble, your tour of the marble quarries, Carrara and Colonnata comes to an end.
I can’t wait to see you at our next destination—Lucca.
Don’t miss it!