Touring the marble mines in the Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany is an incredible visual experience--which is why the location was chosen for the chase scene in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
You can tour some of the marble mines above Carrara in a self-guided car tour, but to get as high into the Apuan Alps as we did in the picture, you'll need to take a jeep tour. The tour we took cost a reasonable €10, one of the best bargains in Italy. It gets you 1000 meters above the sea.
The map shows two markers, marking the parking lot and where the tours begin. There is a restaurant on site and you can have only the marble tour or combine the tour with lunch. Mouse over the map markers to see what they represent.
View from the Quarries
Down Comes a Mountain
You will, of course, need a car to do this trip, unless you've arranged to use a guide or travel planner.
From the city of Carrara, follow the signs to the "cave" until you reach the Fantiscritti caves. There is a small museum there worth seeing. The restaurant, Ristorante il Poggio, has an annex where you can sign up for the tour if you've come in the off season without a reservation.
If you haven't made a restaurant reservation before arriving at the Frantiscritti starting point, we suggest heading over to the nearby town of Colonnata, famous for its lardo, herbed backfat aged in marble vats that kept the marble miners in energy through the long winters. It's possible to tour the lardo workshops. There are quite a few restaurants in Colonnata. You don't have to eat lardo in any of them, but you should try it. It's much healthier then butter when a thin slice is laid over a piece of toasted bread. Our latest fave restaurant in Colonnata is Osteria Nella Pia.
If you want a house in the country or vacation apartment, try HomeAway: Massa Carrara Vacation Rentals.
We recommend Serena Giovannoni of Wish Versillia as a guide who can provide comfortable transportation and guide services from wherever you are in Versillia (this area of Tuscany), especially useful if you do not have a car or if you just want to leave the navigating to someone else. The roads in this area are narrow and confusing. Leave the driving to someone who knows the way.
Cave di Fantiscritti, Italy
Latitude: 44.090777975 Longitude: 10.133441103
Where to go from here? Once you've seen the raw materials you may wish to visit the workshops, many clustered around Pietrasanta, a very nice town to stay in. If a spa appeals to you more, Montecatini Terme may be just what you're looking for. Lucca is also nearby. It is about an hour and a half drive to Florence.
If you are a lake lover, bird watcher, or like to walk on planks over wetlands (and see a Roman Villa overlooking it all), a trip to Lake Massaciuccoli might be in order.
Or, you may wish to explore other options in Tuscany.