Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Carrara, steep slopes and marble

In October, we joined our CAI friends for a day walk to scale a mountain near Carrara - where world famous marble is mined.  The walk/climb followed one of the paths that was used up until the middle of last century for transporting massive slabs of marble.  After being cut out of a mountainside, a slab of marble would be slowly moved downhill using a system of ropes, a lot of men, centimeters at a time. Transportation paths were selected down valleys of least steepness, although when on a mountain, it’s all relative – there’s steep, very steep, and ‘I’m going to fall off the side of a mountain’ steep.

We set out at 8am, and after our usual pitstop for coffee and a pastry, began our climb on a sunny autumnal day.  In no time, we were huffing and puffing from the steep ascent, although in the first photo, Melanie puts on a good show of looking relaxed.

A morning tea siesta

No idea what that strange symbol is...
At one of our rest breaks, the side of the mountain had been cut, revealing a wall of marble.  We wanted to cut it out and take it home for a kitchen bench, but didn’t have a spare diamond lasercutter with us – rats! 


Another 2 hours climbing, and finally we reached the summit, with glorious 360 degree views of the Apuane mountains, forests reddening in the autumn, and the coastline beaches – we could even see the Cinqueterre coastline!

Tanti auguri a te, tanti auguri a te.....
At one stage, we were talking about how difficult it was to transport the marble slabs down the mountain using ropes and men, and I asked a question that seemed quite reasonable at the time.  Mind you, this was all in Italian, and so I was quite proud of myself, for a second anyways.
So how is marble transported down the mountain these days? I asked.
Our friend Ricardo looked me in the eye and said ‘Using trucks’ in a way that I think confirmed the stereotypical view of tourists as not being very bright.
We ate a picnic lunch on the mountain summit – food always tastes better with a view – and then our friend Paola presented Melanie with a cupcake, and a box of chocolates, for her birthday the day before.  Which brought on a group singing of ‘Happy Birthday to you.....

Here’s a photo of us with Paola and Ricardo, who live just down the road from us in Lucca.  Ricardo is a locksmith, had organized the day’s walk, and seems to have climbed most of the mountains in the Apuane range in his time. 

Down, down and more down

After climbing an elevation of 1100 metres to the summit, it was time to descend which tends to make the knees wobbly after awhile.  Luckily, our route back took us to a mountain rifugio, which made for a pleasant coffee stop (Italians never like to get too far away from a coffee stop).

Hate to be driving a truck there
The final part of the descent took us near one of the many marble mines, where we could see firsthand the zig sagging road required for the trucks to transport marble.  As well as looking like a blot on the otherwise pristine landscape, it looked very steep!

And so ended our walk, as usual a tiring one, but with million dollar views and happy memories to savour.

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