That’s not snow on those mountains!
Playtime’s over (kind of) as we drive north to the marble capital of the world, the quarries of Carrara.
Admiring the view of the Apuan “marble mountain” from our hotel, (appropriately named Hotel Michelangelo), I’m still amazed at how they were able to quarry those ridiculously heavy blocks of stone centuries ago without modern machinery, sliding them downhill across the rubble on precarious wooden sleds. (Lizzatura photo-La Nazione)
This dangerous technique known then as the Lizzatura, is re-enacted each year for tradition’s sake in Michelangelo Buonarroti’s quarry of choice, the Fantiscritti basin near the Ponti di Vara. I would really like to attend the demonstration sometime, but it’s always in August, and that’s not a particularly good time to visit Italy. Too hot, WAY too many people and the stone industry essentially shuts down for the entire month.
Thankfully, it’s September and the stone sector is very much alive after the August hiatus, and luckily these days, that beautiful Carrara marble is much easier and safer to liberate from its ancient mountain prison.
This evening we’re able to meet up with our friends Massimo and Cristina, first for aperitivi along the seafront, then dinner at a nice little osteria well off the tourist radar.
Dinner tonight consists of rabbit and pigeon for our Italian companions, and some sort of mushroom soup for Sheri. For myself, not wishing to dine on little bunny foo foo or my fine feathered friends, opt for a less adventurous plate of ravioli-tortellini-whatever filled with some type of Italian mystery meat. Probably pork or veal, but hopefully not cavallo. Whatever’s in there is tasty and I find it’s better not to ask too many questions. Sheri gives the rabbit and pigeon a taste, shrugs her shoulders, and proclaims the typical “tastes like chicken.”
The following morning we meet with our old friend and business associate with the unmistakable Italian name “Bill”.
The day is spent perusing a variety of marble, at various locations around Carrara, Massa and Pietrasanta. I’m looking for certain stones that I know are in demand, and meticulously checking the quality. We want our customers to have the best and most beautiful materials available, which is why more often than not, we insist on personally selecting the stone at the source. I’m also on the hunt for a square meter block of nice Statuario Classico for my next sculpture, which will be my little stowaway on this next container shipment. I’m wanting to do another elaborate piece like Mantis, but I need an absolutely perfect block to achieve what I have in mind.
The rest of the afternoon is spent finalizing details before we have a late lunch together at our favorite ristorante near the seaport. It was at this very place a few years ago that my wife was “scolded” for ordering a coke instead of wine with her fish. “Da feesha needa to swima ina da WINE! Notta ina da COKE!” I know better than to make that faux pas, but I’ll cut her some slack since she’s Scottish.
But Sheri’s a quick study, and this time she pre-empted the “situation” by ordering a glass of chilled Vernaccia instead, and all was va bene as Bill declared the two most popular words in all of Italy: