The Italian Almanac

marble's cave

Italian News - July 15

Deep divisions have emerged in Tuscany over whether the top should be lopped off a mountain where Michelangelo found some of the world's finest white marble. Mt Altissimo, which stands in a nature reserve just inland from the famous quarry towns of Massa and Carrara, provided the Renaissance sculptor with the raw material for masterpieces such as the Pieta'.

After Michelangelo, generations of artists have gone to the site for its highly sought-after fine-textured marble. The statue of Neptune in Florence's central square is made from the mountain's stone. But, after almost five centuries, the seam of marble in the mountain is running out and the company which owns the quarry wants to get at the last chunk of stone which sits under one of the peaks . To do so, it will have to cut the peak off, changing the landscape irreversibly.

Administrators of the towns whose territory touches Mt Altissimo appear to be open to the idea, aware that job losses would make them unpopular. But the authorities who oversee the 'Alpi Apuane' nature reserve, along with local environmentalists, are determined to stop Henraux changing one of the park's key features.

Park President Giuseppe Nardini said recently that Mt Altissimo belongs to all of humanity and its peaks must be protected no matter what the cost. Local artists and art historians have also stepped into the debate, usually calling for a compromise that appears almost impossible to achieve.