Along the coast of Northern Italy is Carrara—the town where for millennia the whitest, finest marble on earth has been harvested. It is from here that the marble for Rome's Coliseum was quarried. It is from here that Michelangelo hand-picked his chunks of marble from which to carve his best-known works (including "David.") There is something mythical about Carraran marble. I couldn't separate the shape from the stone. I couldn't separate the stone from the place.
In the last days of October 2015, i took off by train, by bus, by thumb and by foot (not necessarily in that order) to see if i could reach the quarries and to explore. Over the course of a week I made my pilgrimage from Turin to Riomaggiore, down to Carrara, and then to Florence, where a number of Michelangelo's pieces can be seen —an unfinished few, and of course, David.
The quarries of Carrara are still active, worked by about 1000 men, a job that has been in their families sometimes for generations. Originally marble veins had to be leveraged where stones would naturally cleave apart with a chisel. Today diamond-coated "rope" is run across the face of these mountains. Workers walk around among the 40-ton chunks and rate them for quality. Trucks race up and down the mountain delivering them. The white calcium carbonate powder that covers all surfaces is not particularly unhealthy to breath, but it makes the risk of snow-blindness among the workers something they protect against.