Carrara is known worldwide for its white marble, and is the headquarters of the Apuan-Versilia marble industry. During Antiquity, the city was founded around the white marble mountains and artists from all over the world went to Carrara to choose a piece of this “white gold” for their works. Carrara is located close to the Ligurian Sea, in north-western Tuscany, in a province that extends from the coast to the Apuan Alps.
There are many things to see as you stroll through Carrara’s historic centre, but you might not know that the centre was actually originally located around what is today piazza Duomo, with settlements as early as the Roman era, who used the marble from the nearby quarries to build monuments. For an idea of what you might see walking around Carrara, check out our suggestions below.
The Cathedral of Sant’Andrea is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Andrew the Apostle and is located in the namesake piazza. Almost the entire exterior is covered in local marble and bears Tuscan, Lombard and Parma influences. The church is a unique mix of architectural styles, with a Romanesque layout but Gothic elements. On the façade, there is a wheel with the engraving "Fortitudo mea in rota" (“my strength is in the wheel”): this is the coat of arms of Carrara that appears on many other buildings in the historic centre and underlines the importance that marble has always had for the town’s economy. The bell tower, 33 meters tall, was added in the 14th century. Alongside the cathedral, in the same piazza, is a fountain depicting Andrea Doria resembling Neptune by Baccio Bandinelli.
The Accademia di Belle Arti has been located since 1805 in the former residence of the Cybo-Malaspina family, one of the area’s most notable noble families, which dates to the 16th century. The façade has a highly Baroque style, dating to the 17th century, with large windows and a larger portal decorated with many marble inserts. A monument dedicated to the sculptor Pietro Tacca, who was from Carrara, stands in front of the palace.
Construction on the Church of Suffragio started in 1688 with a project attributed to Innocenzo Bergamini and was later rebuilt in 1800. The façade is simple but enriched with a large marble Baroque doorway featuring a bas-relief of the Madonna with Souls in Purgatory by the sculptor Carlo Finelli. The church has a Latin-cross plan and is topped by a slate-covered dome. The interior is in the Baroque style and features rich marbles of varying colours that create a dramatic effect, like the high altar in polychrome marble, which is located between two winged skulls. The name of the church comes from the altarpiece, where an Our Lady of Suffrage was painted in oil by an anonymous painter. The church was deconsecrated in the mid 20th century, and it now hosts temporary exhibits.
The Carmine Church dates to the 16th century. The main door features a Madonna and Child by Bartolomeo Ordoñez and the interior boasts a polychrome marble altar with a 16th-century painting, dedicated to the Virgin of Carmelo, and an altar dedicated to Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi.
Via Santa Maria is just in front of the Carmine Church and is one of the oldest and most characteristic streets in the city. The most important house on the street can be found at number 14, which belonged to Emanuele Repetti, who supposedly hosted the Italian poet and writer Petrarch in 1343.
Piazza Alberica is another important piazza, where we can find some of Carrara's magnificent noble palaces and a fountain with a Neoclassical statue dedicated to Maria Beatrice d’Este by Pietro Fontana.
The Teatro degli Animosi is a marble Neoclassical work built in the 19th century, located close to a monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi by Carlo Nicoli.
Via Loris Giorgi is one of the most beautiful and important streets in Carrara and boasts many well-preserved palaces from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Museum of Marble was founded in 1982 and contains artefacts and documents on the culture of marble. The itinerary is organized into six indoor sections, while outside there is an area boasting the most beautiful “Marbleteque” in Italy.