Europe

A day trip into the heart of the largest marble basin in the world.
The Carrara Marble Caves located in the Apuan Alps, a mountain range in northern Tuscany, Italy.

The firsts extraction of the marble probably took place during the Iron Age.
The actual mining activity started developing during the Roman period, especially under Julius Caesar (48-44 BC).

The marble was traditionally exported from the port of Luni (which is why in archaeology is also called Lunense marble), and was used in the construction of major public and private buildings in Rome.

After research and location scouting me and my friend Daniele decided to have a day trip to Carrara and its beautiful surroundings: caves, mountains and the sea.

Our main goal was to explore the extraordinary but also shocking sites of the mines, which has left the mountains looking a bit like Groviera cheese, but also to see what else the area had to offer.

Carrara is very close to the coast, about 5 km from the sea. just  under the slopes of the gigantic mountains.

On our way we foud Torano a small town built just below the caves.

carrara marble caves

We had some previous saved routes to follow to get to one side of the caves. Once you get to Carrara the accessible areas to the caves splits in two paths the est side and the west side. We decided to go to the west side of the mountains, following our map and the signs in the street.

Our journey starts on Sunday 14th of January, deep winter, but beautiful sunny-ish weather.
If you are a free adventurer I suggest you to visit the caves independently only during the weekends. Sundays would be the best as it’s easier to access as there are no activities and trucks around.

After about 30 mins driving up from the town we found our spot: the highest level of the caves we could reach by car on the public roads.

Bear in mind, all the caves you will see beside the routes are private property and it is not allowed.
A security guard is always around by car checking the area. Apparently there are also sensor connected to the authorities, so pay attention.

As soon as we arrived we noticed this presumable old abandoned station/base. We assumed it was the place where they used to transport the mined marble from the caves to the port and factories in Carrara.

carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves

Taking some pictures with Daniele we started hearing pretty laud thuds and the sounds of crumbling rocks from the mountains.
We started laughing because we weren't sure where it was coming from. We first thought it was some landslides from the caves, but then we started hearing actual explosions.
The adventure suddenly became more interesting and scary.
But we knew in our brains that someone was working in the caves; which trust me it isn't obvious to think when you are in a desert cave on Sunday surrounded by massive precisely sliced rocks.

We luckily bumped into a site guard who confirmed what we thought about the explosions and the base camp we where at.
An old artisan miner was at work that day because business wasn't going good for him and he had to do some extra work.

So weird an fascinating if you think about it.
Like if you are a bartender or a shop owner and you need more income you just try work some extra hours. Easy.
In the case of marble extraction, if you need more income you go to work also on Sunday to blow up mountains and get some pieces of rock.

Just funny to think about it, specially if you are there under the explosions...

After a good time spent there taking photos and talking to the guard, we left to drive further up and get to the peak of the mountain to have a better view of the marble caves.

After 45 min we get to this panoramic point.

carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves

We kept going up as we started seeing snow on the peak. At one point the street became an abandoned rough road.
We adventurously continued to Foce di Pianza where the road basically ends with this view.

carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves

The clouds passing on our heads at some point showed us an amazing game of lights and shadows above the caves.

carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves

We parked the car and decided to go even further up and hike to the tip, absolutely not equipped for the snow.

Our hike lasted for about an hour and a half in total.

carrara marble caves
carrara marble caves

Our day trip finished with this epic sunset on the Mediterranean coast. On our way back home, few km away from where we parked, we decided to stop at the Belvedere Restaurant in Campocecina for a small break and snacks.

Photo credits: Giulio Aprin - Daniele Gatti

2 Comments

  1. Anja
    May 16, 2018 / 12:17 pm

    This article is amazing, it really makes me visit Carrara. That is a real good read with all important facts about the place and at same time very entertaining like a short adventure story. This grabbed me with full impact. Fascinating photos,spectacular!!looking forward to more of your articles. You are a good writer. Keep pushing your outstanding photographer work.

    • Giulio
      Author
      May 16, 2018 / 12:22 pm

      Hey Anja!
      Thank you so so much for your comment and your feedbacks. I appreciate a lot! Hopefully I’ll be able to write more interesting stories soon.
      Thank you again.

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