Carrara and its environs.
Carrara is set between the sea and the amazing scenery of “Apuane” Alps and it was already sung by Strabone, Tacito and Dante Alighieri; it is one of the most ancient municipalities of Italy and keeps a very interesting historic centre stratified during the centuries: statues, fountains, icons and ensigns testify the widely spread of marble in the street furniture.
Since its origin, the town has been linked with the process of quarrying and marble working: already since the Roman Age from the close harbour of Luni at the mouth of river Magra, marble has been exported all over the world.
Gli Etruschi si insediarono dall'età del Bronzo
finale e la prima età del Ferro (secoli XII-VIII
a.C.) sulle propaggini meridionali delle Alpi Apuane e nel
From the end of the Bronze Age to the beginning of the Iron Age (XII-VIII centuries B.C.), Etruscans settled down in the southern area of Apuane Alps and in the coastline to the river Magra, while the Apuo-Ligurian people went to live in the mountainous district.
Since 235 B.C., when the roman-ligurian wars begun, Romans built permanent settlements upon river Magra, the foundations of the city of Luna; among the ruins of the city was found the first monument of carved marble: dated 155 BC, it came from the basin of Polvaccio (in the gully of the village of Torano) and was dedicated to M. Marcellus, the general who won the Apuo-Ligurian.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, during the low Middle Age the Carolingian Emperors donated Carrara to the bishops of Luna and then the town became one of the first City-States in Italy. The power of the City-State of Carrara was replaced by seigniory of Pisa, who opened the marble quarries again to build the churches in the area: in the XII century begun the erection of the Dom, a fine example of Romanesque style. The first circle of walls was built around the half of XIII century and just then Carrara passed through many vicissitudes under the rule of the Republic of Lucca and under the Lordships of Genoa, Parma, Verona and Milan.
During the half of the XIII century, when the walls were completed, Carrara took the appearance we can recognize even nowadays; there are six gates to the town. The circumference started from the gate of Bozzo, went along the stream Carrione up to the Baroncino bridge, run along the east side of Alberica Square up to the Rocca. Among the six gates, one went through the Rocca and the others closed the main streets of the town: via Santa Maria, via Ghibellina, via dell'Olivo and via Carriona, where today we can see the Statue of the Horse. At the beginning of the XV century along via Santa Maria begun to spring shop-houses with facades of marble or mullioned marble window with two or three lights; some tower-houses were built as the Tower of Piccino next to Porta del Bozzo, and along the route of the medieval village were opened two new street: via dell'Arancio and via Ghibellina.
In 1473 the rule of Cybo Malaspina's dynasty gave impulse to the city-revival: the walls were extended, Alberica Square was built and was erected the Palace of the Prince, which became in 1769 the seat of the Academy of Art, thanks to Maria Teresa D'Este, who also codified the law on marble lands for the concession and the usufruct of the quarries.
Between the XVII and the XVIII century, Carrara became a baroque town: the popular residential area and the productive activities sprang in the quarter of Grazzano-Caffaggio, while the aristocracy built its dwellings along Alberica square -palaces as, for example, Palazzo del Medico and Palazzo Orsolini in via Alverica; Palazzo Pisani and Palazzo Luciani in via del Plebiscito; Palazzo Lazzoni in via Carriona; Palazzo Monzoni and Palazzo Schizzi on the two sides of the Church (“Chiesa delle Lacrime”) in front of “delle Lacrime” bridge (1736).
During the Napoleonic period, the principality of Massa and Carrara stayed for eighteen years under French rule, until Elisa Baiocchi came to the power: thanks to Napoleon's sister was built “via della Foce”, the street which joins the two cities. Under the French rule were destroyed the medieval gates (except Porta del Bozzo) and new streets were carried out, such as via della Foce and via Postale, the current via Rosselli. Since 1830 the sixteenth-century walls were demolished: this change was both the precondition for the considerable urban growth of the city and the consequence of the spread of marble sector which begun around the half of the XIX century. New buildings were erected along via Postale, i.e. Palazzo Fabbricotti, and along San Francesco wide road (the current via Verdi), i.e. Palazzo Binelli, the former seat of the Bank of Italy.
After the riots in 1848, when Carrara distinguished itself by its revolutionary character, the town joined the Great Dukedom of Tuscany and after 1861 it became part of the Unite Italy.
After the unification of Italy, two important events characterized the local history: the construction of the Railway to carry the blocks of marble from the mountain to the plain and the drafting of Leandro Caselli's town plan, which made possible the building of the main squares of the town, of “Verdi” multi-purpose theatre, of “Dogali” cavalry station, of “Saffi” primary school and “Finelli” kindergarten. In these years, the monarchists and the liberals ruled Carrara; groups of people following Mazzini's political ideology together with republicans and socialists were in opposition but in 1877 they achieved the government of the town. In 1894 the social discontent and the economical hardship led to riots, which were repressed with violence and ended with about a hundred of sentences.
At the beginning of XX century the town had a new growth thanks to the construction of new works: XX Settembre Boulevard (1904-1915), the tramline joining Carrara and Marina and the coastal road network to Versilia; piers were strengthened and in 1922 the building of the arbour in Marina di Carrara begun.
After the accession of the anarchist Alberto Meschi, who took the guide of the Camera del Lavoro (*), the town experienced the tragic Fascist period; in 1921 was found the “Fascio di Combattimento di Carrara” (**), leaded by Renato Ricci, the “Camera del Lavoro” was closed and the town council was obliged to resigned.
On the 8 th September 1934 the war of liberation begun and the town sided the “Val di Fassa” alpine battalion, clashing with Germans on the hill “Foce”. In September 1953 was found the first Committee for national liberation and the area became the borderline of the backmost German defence, named Gothic Line. The Apuan area underwent the violence of Nazi-fascist repression with mass slaughters, against which fought the Partisans: in July 1944 the women of Carrara were the protagonists of a riot under the windows of the German headquarter and therefore the Nazis revoked order to evacuate the city. At the end of II World War, the province of Massa Carrara was bestowed with the Gold Medal for Military Value.
After the war the economic and tourist development of the town begun: the urban centre of Carrara remained almost the same as it had stratified from the XIII century to the early ‘30s of 1900.
(*) The name of the local seats of the Italian trade union “CGIL” (Italian General Confederation of Labour).
(**) The local group of combat fascists.
Historical commemoration of the “Lizzatura"
This commemoration takes place in the quarries in the basin of Colonnata, usually on an August Sunday: it revives the marble carriage through the stone-boat, named “lizzatura”, which was used since the ancient times. Usually, at the end of the morning, the event is closed with the bacon-fat tasting, which is characteristic of the village and is produced in the typical workshops famous all over the world.
The stone-boat was a kind of sledge made with three big trunks put next to each other and shaped like ski: there was laid the blocks of marble, with a total weight of 15-20 tonnes. In order to carry the blocks down the mountainside, the stone-boat was driven along the “vie di Lizza” (the stone-boating road, a kind of purpose-built roadbeds) or more frequently it was lowered down the “ravaneti” (*) , covering the downwards slope of the quarries. The stone-boat was kept by three big ropes partially coiled around the “piri” (i.e. logs driven into the marble ground): the ropes were loosened slowly while a group of workers (named “lizzatori”) laid before the stone boat a series of wood-sleepers, named “parati”. From the lading mound the marble was loaded on oxcarts, which were used until the beginning of the XX century.
(*)Ravaneto [pl.ravaneti]: in marble and stone quarries, the ravine from which the cut blocks are carried down and where the rejects are thrown away.
Until the XVIII century when explosive and gunpowder came into use, the mining technique remained completely handmade, the same used by Romans. The technique of mining with explosive, named “varata”, made the demolition of huge amounts of stone possible but it sometimes needed arrangements which could last for months. The great “varate” were regulated since 1895 until 1932, when they were outlawed; the very last one took place four years later.
In 1889 at the International Exposition of Paris, a revolutionary machine was presented, which cut marble blocks with a helical wire: it was invented and patented by the Belgian engineer Chevalier in 1854; since 1985 it was used also in the marble quarries of Carrara, with the great advantage to cut out large-sized blocks directly from the mountains.
In 1810 the “Marmifera” begun to work: it was a train which carried blocks of marble and since 1871 its carriages were built according eng. Villy, Genzoni and Turchi's plans. The firsts sections went over 15 tunnels along 4167 meters and were opened in 1876: the modern means of transport joined the Apuane Alps with the valley, near the built-up area of Avenza, where it was connected to the state railway. This grand work had long tunnels and great road bridges, among which the most important are the ones called “Ponti di Vara”; the “marmifera” was dismantled in 1963.