Mineral Riches of Central Italy
ITALY is pre-eminently a marble-producing country. It is to this fact that we must, in a great measure, ascribe the splendour of her palaces and other public and private structures, in which not only the architectural ornaments, but frequently, as in the case of the cathedral at Milan, the entire edifice, is built of the finest marble. We almost instinctively associate the names of Greece or of Italy with statuary and other white marbles. The employment of this stone, so invaluable for ornamental work, from the ease with which it can be chiselled, dates from the remotest antiquity, for we find various works of art sculptured in it by the Greeks and the early inhabitants of Italy. Long before the foundation of Rome, the Etruscans possessed skilful sculptors, whose productions were afterwards held in high estimation by the Romans.
At the present day, few if any quarries are worked in Greece, so that almost all the statuary and white architectural marble employed throughout Europe and America is derived from the Apuan Alps.
From the circumstance of the marbles at Carrara (Massa Carrara) being found within a few miles of the ancient port of Luna, where it was employed in making the wall of the town, we may understand how the Romans should have turned their attention to it at an early period.
In the 16th century, the excavation of statuary marble was extended to Seravezza (Lucca), a town about ten miles east of Carrara, in the same range of mountains, while only within the last thirty years the marbles above the intermediate town of Massa (Massa Carrara) have been worked. These towns are situated at the foot of the mountains on the three little rivers, Carrione, Seravezza, and Frigido respectively. Each of these rivers flows through a deep valley it has cut for itself in the rock, numerous torrents on either side forming so many lateral valleys, so that the mountains have ridges often as sharp as the roof of a house. Two quarries of white marble also belong to the intermediate commune of Montignoso. On the north side of the Apuan Alps, behind Carrara and Seravezza, are the two communes of Vagli-sotto and Fivizzano, where the marbles are equally abundant, but have not yet been worked.
Excerpt from The Mineral Resources of Central Italy by William Paget Jervis – 1862
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