The spectacular Apuan Alps that can be seen from La Spezia, showing the way to Tuscany, are a the northern part of the Tuscan Apennines and bounded on the northwest by the river Magra (Lunigiana) to the east by the river Serchio (in the region of Lucca) and south-west by the Apuan Riviera (Versilia). They are generally white and look covered in snow even in summer, but these mountains are actually not so high, even if they seem so, and their bright whiteness is actually marble. The marble quarries of Carrara, from which the most valuable white marble in the world is mined since ancient Roman empire times.
The name “Apuane” comes from the fact that in ancient times these name were inhabited by the Apui strain of the Ligurians, indigenous population of the whole area. As for the concept of “Alps”, it is a name given to highlight the resemblance with the alpine range and its angular and rugged character, hard to climb.
The marble quarries were probably already in use during the Copper Age by the primitive inhabitants of the area to produce various utensils and decorative and commemorative objects to be buried in coffins with the deceased.
The Romans developed the real mining activity, and from the time of Julius Caesar (48-44 BC) the Carrara quarries supplied the blocks of white marble for the major public buildings in Rome and several patrician houses. The export went through the port of Luni, hence the Roman name of Luni marble.
With the Christianity marble was required in large quantities for the construction of religious buildings and their interior decor. The activity of the quarries was particulary fervent during the Renaissance when Michelangelo came here personally to see in the marble his sculptures: for the artist, the work of art would start in the cut of the raw material in the quarry.
Today, the visit of the quarries in the basins of Torano, Fantiscritti and Colonnata are unforgettable and unique: along the route of the former Marble Railway, visitors can do a spectacular journey through the striking tunnels dug into the rock , to explore the cave from which since the preroman time was extracted the white Carrara marble. It is also possible to learn the ingenious and dangerous ways the marble was carried to the valley along the carriage ways in time.
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