Recently I had to spend six days in Carrara, a small provincial town North East of Florence and 5 Km from the coast on the hills where they quarry the famous marble.
Our son Spyros was accepted in the Accademia di Belle Arti to study sculpture and though he was accepted in the Florence Academy as well, which is more known and snobby, he chose Carrara’s academy because of its tradition in marble sculpting. He has already done his sojourn in Florence and preferred something more quiet and not so “touristy”. So I went to help him find accommodation and to give him support for his new beginning in Carrara, as I promised.
The main business of the town is quarrying the marble from the hills above it (the quarries are a big attraction), the Academia and its students. The marble is of high quality, mainly white and it is used traditionally in statuary. It also has an amazing translucency that makes the sculpture look very light and ethereal. The most famous worldwide Italian sculptor using extensively the Carrara marble is Antonio Canova.
The town and its surrounds has about 65000 inhabitants. The old town on the hills, Centro Historico, is delightful with an array of squares and palaces and a small river, that gets fierce, going through it at places.
You can reach Carrara by car or by train from Milan, 3,5 hours the fast train! Or from Florence which is 1h 15’. You could also drive off the motorway and enjoy the amazing Tuscan scenery.
There are a lot of places to stay but Mariposa Bed and Breakfast, though basic, is very well situated in the center, it is clean and very good value for money. Silvia, who runs the place, is very helpful, even though she only speaks Italian. She is also a graduate of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara.
For lunch we frequented Roma Restaurant in Piazza Battisti trying different local dishes. “Flan of Zucchini” as a starter was light and delicious. “Agnello e zucchini frito misto” was scrumptiously tasty as a main course. “Scalopini ai funghi” was excellent and “Risotto porcini” and “Ravioli with brie sauce” were very tasty as well.
Spyros’s favorite single meal dish was “Ribolita”, a soup made with vegetables and pulses, at Ristorante Vittorio in Via Cavour. He sometimes ate two portions as starter and main!!!
I also liked the Enoteca La Vinaccia as wine bar food.
Our favorite was Ristorante Il Rebacco in Via Loris Giorgi, that we went almost every night and I have to admit that everything we tried was excellent. A bit more expensive than the other restaurants but totally worth it. The most expensive meal we had was €38.00 per person for a three course meal, desert (a chocolate mousse to die for) and one glass of excellent local wine, Vermentino.
The other recommended restaurant La Capinera was closed so we did not manage to try it. They would open later that month.
There are excellent restaurants in the country side around Carrara but we didn’t manage to try them this time as we didn’t have a car.
Different famous people seem to have passed from the town, including George Orwell, that a marble plate commemorates his stay with the words: “George Orwell collected his thoughts against totalitarianism from this balcony”. I also spotted Giannis Kounellis’ name carved on a marble stone in the main square, almost like a graffiti. I had fun wondering the streets of the Centro Historico taking pictures of buildings, public squares, architectural details and entrances to buildings.
After six days in Carrara I felt completely at home and the highlights of my visit were sitting in Piazza Alberica, drinking spring water from the fountains or watching the clouds rolling down from the hills above the town.