Terra di Toscana www.terraditoscana.com

Along the Vie del marmo

If tourists sunbathing on the beaches of Versilia and the Apuan coast turn their backs to the sea, they can see the bastion of the Apuan Alps peremptorily shutting off the view to the north-east. The white marks clearly visible on the mountain slopes look like frozen snow shining in the rays of the sun, but it is an optical illusion that is soon explained given that in summer it does not snow in Tuscany. The distant shining whiteness is nothing other than marble that has been extracted and brought to the surface, and what seem to be permanent tongue-like snowfields are actually gigantic masses of quarrying detritus tumbling down towards the valleys. Called "ravaneti", they look like cascades of ice and descend the steep slopes on which there also appear to be strange zig-zags. These are the so-called Vie di lizza. Transporting the enormous blocks of marble from the precipitous mountainside down to the valleys was an extremely arduous task and often cost the lives of those who undertook it; tons of this precious material were tied with ropes onto rudimentary wooden trolleys called lizze, and, with wooden poles acting as brakes, were slowly lowered down the mountainside. Once at the bottom they then went to embellish houses all over the world or to be sculpted into beautiful statues.

Nowadays marble quarrying is carried out using technologically sophisticated equipment including steel cords and modern machines. Only in the last few years have a number of environmental organisations begun to focus on the issue of marble quarrying in the Apuans, with a call for limits to be placed on the extraction of marble. Though undeniably useful to the economy of the area, it is irreparably damaging mountains of a very distinctive natural value.

Next...

 

Text and pictures Gianfranco Bracci
Translation: Jeremy Carden


Terraditoscana © Polimedia - All rights reserved
Press registration n. 5528 10/11/2006 - Editor Polimedia - P.IVA 05575950489