Carrara is actually an exceptional tourist destination.
26 Feb 2019
When people think about Italian tourist destinations, a host of iconic sights and regions spring to mind. From the canals of Venice and the splendour of Rome to Naples and Pompeii, the beaches of Sicily, and the beauty of Lake Garda - there are plenty of places that people know and love.
Then again, there are also some undiscovered gems that very few tourists see; the marble quarries of Massa di Carrara definitely fit into this category. That might sound strange (who would want to spend their holiday in a quarry?) But when you hear the story of this incredible place and the stone it produces, you may well change your mind.
Introducing Massa di Carrara - a quarry which changed the world.
Massa di Carrara is located in Tuscany, which, as you probably know, is one of Italy's premier tourist destinations. But it hasn't always relied on visitors from abroad to taste its wines, fill its beaches and marvel at its endless architectural wonders.
Tuscany has a much deeper history of industry, art and power which stretches back thousands of years. And if you could pick one material which symbolises this history, Carrara marble would be an excellent choice.
In Roman times, Carrara was already a centre of marble quarrying. Marble from these hillsides was used to build timeless monuments like the Pantheon and Trajan's Column, making a key contribution to what was, at the time, the world's largest city.
During the Renaissance, the glory continued. Carrara marble was chosen by Michaelangelo for his David, and the master didn't choose randomly. For him, no stone could compare in terms of beauty and texture. Leonardo da Vinci thought the same way, and he even invented the pathbreaking machine to mine marble more efficiently.
As Carrara's fame spread, so did its marble. London's Marble Arch is made from pure Carrara marble, as is the Peace Monument in Washington DC and the rotunda of the University of Virginia. Architects know how special this place and its stone is. But what about tourists? Why should you pay Carrara a visit during a Tuscan escape?
Experience Carrara's marble quarries for yourself.
Carrara is actually an exceptional tourist destination, which builds upon its quarrying heritage. Here, you can learn how the stone came to exist and how generations of people have extracted, processed and used it to create sublime works of art.
But the quarries provide much more than an art or architecture lesson. The caves constructed by marble quarrying have become an attraction in themselves. Carved by centuries of picks and blades, these chambers are breathtakingly beautiful. With their white walls and dazzling reflections, they are more similar to icebergs than normal caves. And they never fail to leave an impression on those who visit.
And that's not all. The experience of approaching the quarries along winding roads is unforgettable. You feel like you are entering into an Antarctic wonderland that's a world away from Lucca or Siena. And, if you're looking for Instagram photos, you couldn't pick a more photogenic destination.
Finally, there are the sculpture workshops. In the present day, artisans continue to work with Carrara marble, creating public works of art to send across the world. Visitors can tour their workshops and watch as the stone in the quarry becomes transformed into stunning artefacts.
We would recommend organising a guided tour of the quarries to ensure that you see everything and have full access. Just ask at the desk of your Gruppo UNA hotel and your concierge will gladly make the arrangements.
Combine a visit to Carrara with a Tuscan adventure.
It's possible that visiting Carrara alone would be enough for a short break. However, one of the best aspects of this destination is how close it is to other attractions and historic locations. You can easily make Carrara the centrepiece of a vacation, then add in day trips as and when you feel like it.
Florence is an hour away, with its superb Renaissance Duomo and the world-class art of the Uffizi Gallery (ask attendants about pieces made using Carrara stone).
The ancient city of Lucca is an architectural jewel and a cultural magnet when its opera festival kicks into gear. Siena hosts the famous Palio horse race and is a medieval masterpiece in itself. You can tour Tuscan wineries, relax in unspoiled hilltop villages, or hit the beach at Forte dei Marmi.
Tuscany has it all, including some fantastic hotels. If you want to explore Carrara, Gruppo UNA's UNAWAY Hotel Forte Dei Marmi is the ideal place to stay, with sea views and easy access to the quarries. You could also book luxury rooms at the Versilia Lido | UNA Esperienze.
The staff at all of our Tuscany locations will be delighted to help you experience the marble quarries at their best - as well as other Tuscan attractions. So find a hotel, brush up on your artistic knowledge and prepare for a unique tourist treat in the caves of Carrara.