Carrara is a city literally built on marble. With the white topped Apuan Alps hanging in the background, it offers visitors a marble-paved square, a marble-clad cathedral and plenty of sculptures to remind you that the material has been sustaining and shaping this territory since Roman times. It’s off the beaten track, and though not much to look at, perfect if you’re looking for a quiet, almost forgotten town in Tuscany.
Apuan Alps marble quarries near Carrara
So what is it that draws people here? The answer: a visit to the marble quarries.
This is one of the most interesting things to do in Tuscany. An experience that takes you right into the heart of the Apuan Alps, to the places from where Michelangelo would have got his marble. The town that’s at the centre of the marble trade has one important highlight worth coming for.
What to see in Carrara, Tuscany
The main square Piazza Alberica is a vast and beautiful space. It’s the ‘living room’ of the city that hosts festivals during the summer. It’s surrounded by elegant and colorful 1600-1700 buildings with marble decoration, notably the Palazzo dei Conti del Medico,which shows off a red facade richly decorated in white marble. In the centre is the statue of the Duchess of Massa and Carrara Maria Beatrice d’Este, in sumptuos marble vestments, a lion relaxing at her feet.
Outside the square however, there’s not much going on in Carrara. It’s a quiet place full of streets and shops in need of restoration. That being said, the Cathedral makes it worth the trip.
Cathedral of Sant’Andrea Apostolo, in Piazza Duomo – A peaceful and welcoming cathedral built completely in white marble. The original structure (11th century) is still partly visible in the main portal. The rest of the facade is Romanesque (lower part) and Gothic (upper section) with an intricate rose window.
It houses the sarcophagus of St. Ceccardus, patron saint of Carrara, a 14th-century “Annunciation” (an example of Pisan sculpture), and a 14th-century wooden crucifix by Angelo Puccinelli.
Outside, the Giant, a statue by Baccio Bandinelli. He is the same Florentine artist, and a rival of Michelangelo, who did “Hercules and Cacus” in Piazza Signoria, in Florence. Though he never managed to get it ‘quite right’, all his large-scale statues look quite rigid and life-less.
Marble Museum – If you are interested enough in marble, there’s a whole museum dedicated to it. It teaches you about the history of the territory and all about the extraction and manufacturing of this precious material.(It’s not a stone by the way, it’s a type of rock!)
What to see near Carrara
Visit Colonnata, a tiny town in the Apuan Alps where the famous lardo is produced.