Carrara (66,000 inhabitants, 100 meters above sea level) is known throughout the world for its precious marble (Marmo di Carrara) which is extracted from quarries in the nearby Apuan Alps. The city which is the main Italian center for the extraction of marble is of medieval origin. The marble quarries on the Apuan Alps were used since Roman times.
The city due to its strategic importance was disputed during the Middle Ages between the various powers in the area, it was a possession of Pisa, Lucca and the Visconti, only from the fifteenth century Carrara became permanently part of the possessions of the Malaspina forming together with Massa the duchy of Massa and Carrara. In the eighteenth century the city became part of the dominions of the Estensi.
Carrara has its most interesting monument in the Cathedral, a Romanesque-Gothic building built between the 11th and 14th centuries. The building dedicated to Sant’Andrea is covered in marble and has a facade with a fine Romanesque portal and a beautiful central rose window. The side portal in Romanesque style is also very beautiful. The apse is semicircular enriched by a loggia. The bell tower dates back to the 13th century. The interior of the cathedral has three naves with round arches on columns, there are numerous works of art.
Via Santa Maria starts from the Duomo, the most characteristic street in medieval Carrara, the road leads to Piazza dell’Accademia where the building of the Academy of Fine Arts is located, the former residence of the Cybo Malaspina family dating back to the 16th century, and the 17th-century Carmelite church.
In the Academy of Fine Arts there are valuable examples of Roman art, including sculptures, funerary steles and altars, the Fantiscripted aedicule from the Severian age is very interesting. In the nearby Piazza Alberica, the noblest square in the city, there are some interesting 17th century palaces such as the Palazzo dei Conti del Medico and the Palazzo delle Logge.
THE MARBLE QUARRIES
To learn about the history of the marble quarries it is worth visiting the Civic Museum of Marble which tells and shows the aspects of the extraction, processing and transport of marble, in the museum there are also various archaeological departments related to the extraction of marble in Roman times, including a Roman cargo ship.
From Carrara it is possible to take the roads that enter the Apuan Alps up to the marble quarries with spectacular views, among the most beautiful those that lead to Colonnata, to the quarries of Fantiscritti and Ravaccione. From the more than one thousand and three hundred meters of Campo Cecina there is a spectacular view of the marble quarries, the Apuan Alps and the sea. For sea lovers, the vast beaches of Marina di Carrara are located a few kilometers from the center of Carrara.