Saturday, December 10, 2016

12/10 -- Carrara and a Walk on the Lucca Wall

Today we learned about Carrara Marble and visited a quarry. Carrara is about a hour away from Lucca and the quarry was another 30 minutes up the mountain, partly on windy public paved roads and the rest on even windier, steeper, and narrower road made up of marble tailings. Our first sight of the quarries from below in the town of Carrara is quite amazing. The mountain here are MADE of marble and they have been quarried for about 2200 years, so lots of the mountains have been sheered off an are the characteristic white viewed from the valley.
The quarries from the town look like oddly located snow
fields, but they aren't.

We went up close and personal to see how it works. They have two kinds of saws. One is like a chain saw only LOTS bigger that makes a cut at the base of the enormous slab they want to cut out. Then a hole is drilled in a back corner and another type of flexible saw on a thick wire (alternation sections of industrial diamonds and coated wired for flexibility) is fed through the drilled hole and operated by pulley to cut down one side and all the way across the back. While this is happening, a water sleeve in introduced into the hole and pumped up to start to push the slab away from the mountain. This is followed by chunks of rock that slide down as the cut deepens and the slowly forward-tilting slab is lowered to the ground. This  initial set of cuts produces a slab 30 feet wide, 18 feet high, and 9 feet thick, which is way too large and heavy to move. The next operation is to slice it into blocks that can be moved to the city processing plants to be prepared for sale and export.

They start at the top and cut into the mountain
until they near the peak or encounter low quality
rock and then move down to the next layer. It looks
like they are on the 8th layer here.

Another mountain near by that lost its top before the 1975
rule that they couldn't be chopped off.

This is an area they are currently working.

Another view of quarries in other sections.

This quarry section near the bottom uncovered
some very fine stone that has been used as a
modeling backdrop.
Sometimes, instead of an open pit mine, tunnels are dug into the mountain to extract slabs, but this is more dangerous and more difficult to remove the slabs from the tunnels.
Above and below: Two examples of tunneling for slabs.

Only about 10% of the marble actually ends up as a commercial slab. The excess (lower quality rock) is used to make the roads, as blocks to line the hillsides as retaining walls and possibly for sculptures of all sizes. The area also imports and processes all kinds of rock from other areas of the world and exports them after they have been processed into commercial slabs.

Marble is a calcium carbonate and not injurious to the health of the workers, we were told. In fact, it is used in many popular products like calcium pills, face creams, and toothpaste!

A view of the Ligurian Sea from the quarry as well as the
road down and other quarries.

A closer look at the road down and a bridge.
Many of the 190 quarries are foreign owned and due to an ancient agreement with a duchess who controlled the area, no fees are charged for extracting the marble. This means that Carrara itself has limited sources of revenue and has serious money problems. However, it is a pretty solid place, having been built almost entirely with marble -- down to the sidewalks.

There are also environmental concerns emerging and the foreign ownership is less interested in maintaining the environment than the locals are. A concern about climate impact affecting the local  microclimate has led to a  new rule that the top of a mountain can not be chopped off. Carrara is  near the sea and has a milder winter climate because the mountains limit how much cold can get through from the north. The process also uses a lot of water and energy.

The ride down the mountain did nothing for my tummy so I skipped  lunch and wandered around the village making discoveries while the rest of the group ate.
Front (above) and side (below) of the primary
church on the Piazza Duomo, across from the

The bow on the door announces the birth of
a son named Matteo -- typical in Italy

Michelangelo was reputed to have stayed in this house when
he was picking out stone to sculpture.

An image of 'Modesty' -- a naked  lady covering
some of her privates. This square was used to
punish adulteresses.

After lunch, we rode back to  Lucca and decided to walk the city wall, which is quite wide and has nice trails for bikes and walkers. Some of the original fortifications have been left in close to original condition, though there could be more explanations about what you are looking at.
Apparent storage areas in the wall.

A view along the wall and moat to one of
several bastians that would have allowed
soldiers to shoot at attackers near the wall.

Close to sunset looking over the old city from the wall.

We had planned to finish the day with a nice early dinner at 6, but discovered the highly recommended restaurant didn't open until 7:30 and was already booked until 9:30. Instead, we found a nice little grocery store that sold pizza slices, and had dinner for under $6, including a bottle of water and a box of chocolate cookies!
On our way to find dinner, we discovered a light show at
St. Michael's. This was only one of the designs we saw  on
the walls. It reminded of the much more elaborate light show
of Vivid Sydney when we were in Australia.

No comments:

Post a Comment