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The Carrara marble quarries have been exploited since more than 2000 years. Carrara marble, found in northern Tuscany, is very famous for the statuary quality and has been used by all the most famous sculpturers in the world such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Jacopo Della Quercia and Canova. The first notable point of extractive activity was in the roman period, during the imperial age the demand for Carrara marble rose since it became the most requested building stone for public buildings.
Since then Carrara, Tuscany was a synonymous of marble and its marble was requested worldwide for buildings, statues, objects, etc. Till now, about one million tons of precious Carrara marble are quarried each year.
The town of Carrara is not far from any of the marble quaries, and since its origin, the town has been linked with the process of quarrying and marble working: already since the Roman Age from the close harbour of Luni at the mouth of river Magra, marble has been exported all over the world. After the unification of Italy, two important events characterized the local history of Carrara and on of which was very important for marble - the construction of the Railway to carry the blocks of marble from the mountain to the plain.
From the Romans up to approximately 30 years ago, a process called lizzatura was used to move these heavy blocks from their lofty perch to sea level where they could then be transferred all over the world. This involved the use of a large sledge ("lizza"), pulled by oxen and this highly dangerous operation was controlled by experienced quarrymen.
There is a commemoration which takes place in the quarries in the basin of Colonnata, usually on an August Sunday: it re-enacts the marble carriage through "lizzatura". Usually, at the end of the morning, the event is closed with the bacon-fat tasting better known as Lardo di Colonnata - and very famous. It is characteristic of the village and is produced in the typical workshops famous all over the world.
The stone-boat was a kind of sledge made with three big trunks put next to each other and shaped like ski: there was laid the blocks of marble, with a total weight of 15-20 tonnes. In order to carry the blocks down the mountainside, the stone-boat was driven along the "vie di Lizza" or more frequently it was lowered down the "ravaneti". The stone-boat was kept by three big ropes partially coiled and then the ropes were loosened slowly while a group of workers (named "lizzatori") laid before the stone boat a series of woodslats. It was then loaded on oxcarts, which were used until the beginning of the XX century.