Carrara, the world capital of marble
Carrara is well known worldwide for its marble. A characteristic white marble used since the roman age, and made famous by the great masters of the renaissance. Carrara marble quarries today continue their mining activities and are also become one of the major tourist destinations in the area. The historic centre of Carrara is less famous but still interesting. Today we suggest a brief itinerary to discover the treasures of the world capital of marble.
Things to do in Carrara
- Palazzo Cybo Malaspina
- Accademia di Belle Arti
- Casa di Emanuele Repetti
- Piazza Duomo
- Chiesa della Madonna delle Lacrime
- Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie
- Teatro degli Animosi
- Piazza Alberica
- Marble quarries
Palazzo Cybo Malaspina
Our tour starts in the central via Roma where the beautiful Palazzo Cybo Malaspina, also known as the Palazzo Ducale, is located. The palace has long been the historic residence of the Cybo Malaspina family, once lords of Carrara, and was built on the remains of an ancient Lombard castle. Today the complex develops from two distinct buildings, a medieval castle, of which you can appreciate an imposing tower, and a Renaissance residence dating back to the end of the sixteenth century.
Accademia di Belle Arti
Inside the building there is the Accademia di Belle Arti, the most important museum in Carrara. The academy preserves an interesting archaeological collection in which numerous sculptural works stand out. These include the edicola di Fantiscritti, a relief dating from the beginning of the third century after Christ, which portrays Hercules, Jupiter and Bacchus. A peculiarity of this work are the signatures of famous people engraved on it. These include the names of Michelangelo, Giambologna and Canova, which testify to the passage of these masters from the quarry where the edicola was located. In addition to the archaeological collection, many rooms of the building can be visited, which contain various works of interest and also a valuable plaster cast gallery.
For all information on opening hours and tickets, I refer you to the official website of the Accademia di Belle Arti.
Casa di Emanuele Repetti
From the academy take via Verdi and cross the elegant piazza dell’ademia to take Via Santa Maria. It is a characteristic medieval street that leads up to Piazza del Duomo. Just at the beginning of this road, I would like to point out the house of Emanuele Repetti, a beautiful building dating back to the thirteenth century which in the past hosted the seat of the Municipality of Carrara. The house gives me the opportunity to quote Emanuele Repetti who was a great geographer, historian and naturalist born in Carrara and lived between 1776 and 1852. He is responsible for a monumental work, the Dizionario geografico fisico storico della Toscana where they are described all the places (cities, castles, parish churches, aqueducts, rivers, mountains, roads etc.) of Tuscany. The Repetti dictionary is a mammoth work full of information, a real Bible for scholars of Tuscany.
The small but pretty Piazza Duomo (or “Piazza Drent“, that means inside the walls) has a narrow and long irregular shape. On the sides of the square you can admire numerous buildings of medieval origin but which over the centuries have been remodeled and enlarged. As a commemorative plaque reminds us, one of these buildings hosted Michelangelo Buonarroti during his travels to the marble quarries. In the center of the square you can admire the Giant, an unfinished statue that depicts Andrea Doria as if it were Neptune, made by the Florentine sculpture Baccio Bandinelli. Now it’s time to talk about the Duomo and its bell tower.
The Duomo of Carrara was started in the 11th century but was completed only three centuries later. Obviously covered in marble (are we in Carrara or not?), The building is partly in Romanesque style and partly in Gothic style. The facade was built in the fourteenth century and presents an alternation between bands of white and white marble and strips of dark marble. At the center of the facade, one above the other, we can admire two elements of great value: the rose window and the portal, which is enriched by numerous decorations such as the zoomorphic figure sculptures that follow one another in the archivolt.
The interior, with three naves divided by round arches, is simple and austere. The church preserves some valuable works such as the marble group of the Annunciation, known as Le Cassanelle, the sixteenth-century pulpit, the Madonna and Child with Saints made by Andrea Guardi in 1460 and the painted cross suspended above the high altar.
The bell tower is located behind the cathedral and is detached from the church. The tower is 33 meters high and was built during the 14th century; from a stylistic point of view it has been assimilated to some bell towers in Liguria.
Chiesa della Madonna delle Lacrime
From the Duomo, after a very short stretch in via Ghibellina, crossing the Ponte delle Lacrime you reach the Chiesa della Madonna delle Lacrime. Just in front of the church, I would like to point out the Fontana della Sirena, a beautiful Baroque fountain in white marble that depicts a mermaid sitting on a dolphin from whose mouth a jet of water flows which ends up in a large shell.
The Chiesa della Madonna delle Lacrime, also known as the Chiesa della Madonna del Pianto, was built starting from 1650 and is characterized by a beautiful arcade with three arches supported by two columns and two marble pillars. Inside we find the high altar, built by Francesco Baratta in 1772, where the revered image of the Madonna delle Lacrime painted in the sixteenth century by Giusto di Domenico Utes is preserved, and a seventeenth-century canvas depicting Christ crowning the Virgin.
Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie
Continuing on Via Carriona, you will reach in few minutes the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie the last church of this itinerary. The church was built starting from 1620 to house a fresco with the image of the Madonna from the chapel of the Palazzetto del Principe, which is located in Groppoli. A fairly sober facade corresponds to a very rich interior which has its focal point in the grandiose high altar where the image of the Virgin is preserved.
Teatro degli Animosi
From the Sanctuary, across the river, take Via Apuana to reach Piazza Battisti. Here is the Teatro degli Animosi, the main theater in the city of Carrara. Built in 1840, the theater has a beautiful neoclassical facade entirely covered in splendid white Carrara marble, with Ionic pillars and columns to mark the spaces; in the upper part there is an elegant balustrade with garland motifs. On the left of the theater another square opens where in the center stands a large statue which portrays Giuseppe Garibaldi with his sword drawn, the work of the sculptor Carlo Nicoli.
Resuming our walk through the streets of the historic center, we take the last piece of Via Ulivi and reach Piazza Alberica. A large and beautiful square enriched by marble pavements and prestigious buildings such as Palazzo delle Logge and the Palazzo dei conti del Medico. In the center there is a large statue, made in 1827 by the sculptor Pietro Fontana, which portrays the Duchess Maria Beatrice d’Este. The square is the final stage of the tour in the historic center of Carrara; here are some places to relax with a drink or ice cream.
We cannot close this top 10 of things to see in Carrara not talking about the marble quarries. To reach them, you will have to climb the nearby Apuan Alps where the marble basins of the area are located. The marble quarries are certainly one of the main tourist attractions of Carrara. The most famous are the so-called Fantiscritti Quarries, which take their name from the Edicola dei Fantiscritti now preserved at the Accademia di Belle Artis in Carrara. In these quarries is the Cava Museo Fantiscritti, a museum dedicated to the world of marble quarries, to the history and techniques used in mining. Finally, in Carrara, I would like to point out another museum dedicated to marble, the Museo civico del marmo, located in Viale XX Settembre near the stadium.