A trip to the marble quarries of Carrara: brace yourself and have fun!

The Watermill at Posara for painting, creative writing, knitting, and Italian language holidays/vacations/workshops, Tuscany, Italy.

Picture: Ray Warren

Watermill non-painting partner Ray Warren fancied a trip to the marble mountains of Carrara while his wife Carole was enjoying her painting course with Andrew Geeson. We fixed him a trip to the marble quarries with the Cave di Marmo tour company which, he says, was “excellent and expertly done.”

Here’s his report: From Carrara Avenza Station the trip in the Landrover Defender weaves through the streets past the 17 individual factories that shape and polish the marble. They operate individually but cooperate when large orders need to be filled. A sort of strange broken family who begrudgingly help each other out as often as they step on each other to win the business in the first place. In typical Italian style our driver described it as a mother in law to daughter in law relationship where cooperation is needed but contact not sought. 

“It takes about 15 minutes to reach the shop, the starting place for the tour proper and where our vehicles were allocated. The journey up starts with steep hairpin bends on firm roads but soon we were on rough marble and rocks. The road getting ever steeper and the drop off over the side ever more sheer. The Landrover is the best tool for this terrain and eats up the ground quickly and noisily. Then you remember that the lorries with tons of marble use the same roads. This is dangerous work and surely very skilful. 

“At the first stop we saw the village below that once housed the workers. Some still live there but it is now open to others and seems to be a thriving place. The views down the valley were wonderful with the green of vegetation split by huge white fissures of marble quarry. 

Picture: Ray Warren

“The second stop allowed our guide to explain the cutting and harvesting process. Drilling and diamond encrusted cables are used to saw and separate the blocks which are then hauled down by huge earth shifting tractors operated by drivers with the skills of surgeons. Intricate moves and precise grabs have the block falling into soft dust beds to then be dragged away and trucked down to the factories. The process runs 24/7 and demands skill and judgement from seasoned quarry foremen.

Picture: Ray Warren

“Our guide is an expert driver as well as an experienced and knowledgeable person. She needs to be as the slope down seems more steep, more rocky and more sheer than on the way up. The Landrover laps it all up.” 

“A great trip. A definite choice if you love a little science mixed with some adrenaline inducing driving. Worth the time to understand the history, economics and importance of Carrara in Italy as well as the world of marble distribution. Brace yourself and have fun.”

Thank you for your intriguing report, Ray. This is just one of the many activities we offer non-participating partners on watermill creative courses. Find out more by clicking here.

Why not join us next year for one of our fun-filled, sun-filled, inspiring courses? If you book now, there’s a special offer (until 1 September): book a place on any of our 2019 creative courses at 2018 prices. For a preview of our 2019 courses, please click here.

The Watermill at Posara for painting, knitting, creative writing, Italian language, yoga holidays/vacations, Tuscany, Italy.

A wonderful picture by Watermill guest Ron Ploeg


  1. Gabrielle Dempsey says

    That sounds incredibly dramatic and exciting to view…! A little easier than in Michelangelo’s day, what with trucks and diamond cables… but not easy.
    Wonderful post….

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