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The Marble Basin of Carrara

Date of Submission: 01/06/2006
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Ministry of the Environment and Land Protection
State, Province or Region:

Region: Tuscany - Province: Massa Carrara

Ref.: 5004

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The protected area of Alpi Apuane, which are defined "Alps" due to their morphology, are a mountain system that goes from the north-west of Tuscany and spreads over a surface of 400 square km. The mountains are formed by a dorsal which runs parallel to the Tirrenian coast and raises up to 2000 meters. It spreads over the lands of the provinces of Lucca and Carrara. To safeguard and valorise the area, Tuscany set up a park in 1985.Facing the inlands, the historical centre does not appear, because it is hidden in a bowl of green hills, at the bottom of a piedmont bench. The territory, from the sea, presents first a clear-cut hill belt that is followed by tall Alpi Apuane, where the park is, and where a complex system of paths for mountain lovers is present too: the mountain is ripped by marble quarries that pour down river into  ravaneti white casting  which give a one-time and peculiar feature to the sight, generating a Mineral Natural Park of high beauty.

Carrara quarries continue on the mountains over the city, precisely inside the so-called agri, i.e. in highland forests and pasture-lands which once belonged to inhabitants of villages below. The large scale exploitation of Carrara quarries begins in the I century A.C., when the region was dominated by the Romans. From the ancient extracting activity many traces still remain: there are about 30 quarries from Roman age, and many cutting side from renaissance.  Notable is the fact that quarries from Roman age are present only in the basins of Carrara and not in other extractive sites of Alpi Apuane: and that in the neighbourhood of  Colonnata the biggest and more articulated roman quarry of Italy, or even of the world,  is preserved. Many natural environments cause the birth, the development and the characteristics of a civilization: the sea, the mountains, the countryside, each of them  characterises respectively marine, agro-pastural, farming civilizations. Territorial areas in which those civilizations developed are various as well, even if they maintain the fundamental characters that once were of distinction . While the "Marble civilization" was born, is still alive and looks at the future within the only and clear cut territorial area represented by the marble basins of Carrara.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

There are several excavations from the Roman age, the post medieval age and the pre -industrial age, which still preserve authenticity and integrity. As to Roman quarries, we must remark the great roman quarry of Fossacava, opened in the second half of the I century AC and operating up to the III century in the anno domini. The quarry presents a perfect state of preservation. The marble used was extremely appreciated by the Romans. It was used for public and private buildings. .Strabone defined this type of marble as "variegated azure-blue", a beautiful "bardiglio" of a grey-azure colour crossed by white "waves" of  veins. The integrity of this and other quarries is guaranteed by an archaeological bind from the governor of the territory.

In the civic museum of Marble, we can find well preserved evidence of technical and artistic aspects related to marble culture, as it has been developed during the past 2000 years in Carrara.

Private owners of the quarries are in charge of the protection of the marble basins together with the municipality administration, which promotes also the knowledge of the marble basin heritage together with local authorities.

The governor of archaeological heritage of Florence and the governor of the cultural heritage of Pisa are in charge of the preservation of the integrity of the Roman quarries as well as those of the renaissance age.

The monitoring of the exploitation in the marble basins is constantly carried out by the Marble Sector of the Carrara Municipality, by the ASL (Local Health Service) and by ARPAT (Regional Agency for the Protection of the Environment) of Massa Carrara.

Comparison with other similar properties

There are few  sites around the world where it is possible to find white marble. The most famous are:  Macael (Spain), Vermont (USA) and the Greek island of Paros and Naxos. The area of Carrara is the most productive in the world with 1 billion of tons of white marble per year followed by the Macael basin with 800.000 tons/year.

From a historical and archaeological point of view, it is possible to compare Carrara with Greece. Before beginning the exploitation of the Carrara basin, the Romans imported white marbles excavated from the island of Paros and Naxos. Among the other extraction sites we must notice the travertine roman caves of Tivoli (Roma-Lazio).