Moving Marble Block Italian Style: Carrara Gantry Yard

Moving Marble Block Italian Style


Along The North West Tuscan Way

Having moved a fair share of stone in my time I thought I would share this little video showing just how it is done – by the masters that is.  Just watch these two experts make light work of shifting a monster slab of newly sawn Carrara marble to its new berth in the yard.


I am sure that everyone is well aware of marble’s almighty weight. With just one cubic foot weighing in at around 170 pounds, I think you can well imagine some of the difficulties – call them challenges – awaiting anyone attempting to move the gargantuan quarry blocks hewn from the rugged and near vertical mountains that soar above the North West Tuscan City of Carrara.



Hour after hour, day after day, month in year out, the Carrara quarries pour out their truckloads of blocks.



One after the other, the massive blocks make their way down from the multitude of quarries, on through the purpose built tunnel, and off to one of the seemingly hundreds of stone yards, assembled at times side-by-side, for kilometers in and around the busy Mediterranean port.


Truck after truck, hour after hour…. its a busy road alright.


And difficult to cross it was too, I can tell you.



Here’s what I saw though: and bear in mind that this is just one of many such yards.


Look at that!

So very nice and neatly sorted and stacked, I suppose the sight of such a massively big blocks of freshly quarried marble represents quite a benign sight.  But don’t let that fool you. Shifting these monsters presents a significant task. As previously mentioned I myself have acquired a not inconsiderable repertoire of knacks, techniques and cajolings that have allowed me to move many a block stone, without as yet damage to life, limb, stone or property. Never have I moved anything on this scale however; but it must be noted that whichever way it was that I coaxed, pried, winched or rolled my stone into place, I did it minus the assistance of these spectacularly impressive rolling cranes.


In seeing so very many huge blocks of marble whisked down from the mountains I decided to poke around a few yards so as to form a better picture of things.  Just how did they move these massive blocks around? After a little searching I discovered this near perfect angle, on the side of the road, from which to admire the show.



What I immediately recognized from my own experience from moving marble was the full {ultra} concentration of both men.


The chain of command between the two quite plain to see. They work in utmost unison, and with a total communication that results in immediate action. With these sorts of weights and dimensions there is no room for error what-so-ever.  And even though, unlike myself, these two gentlemen have no doubt moved mountains of marble, you will notice that at no point do they take a thing for granted. If a rope needs adjusting, they lower and adjust. Up down, up down. You don’t see much of this in the video as I edited it out due to repetition, but believe me, up and down it went for a minute or two, until they were both agreed that this sucker was NOT going to slip one bit.  But if however you yourself have yet to balance a gargantuan block of marble on two slings I’ll tell you – it’s not quite as straightforward a proposition as you may think.  What’s more, if the thing does go… flip and flop out of its harness – the harness you yourself put on with the last adjustment of a sling, this way or that – not only is it likely to do a lot of damage, but it will be your fault, and yours alone.

Casual as they were, these two experts never stray their attention from the block.  They know perfectly well that when things go wrong with these sorts of endeavors, they go wrong fast. And I mean fast. Like the blink of an eye. A rope slips, the weight shifts, and there is not much that can be done at that point, especially if the block is hanging in the air.  And so, the rule is: never take your eye off the load, watch for the slightest shift. Easy does it, with purpose, and always safety first.

I can only assume that, even after what must be years of shifting marble blocks here, there and everywhere, these two pros would be inured to the pressure that I certainly felt when moving marble not a fraction of the weight of this monster.  But once the block was balanced,  looking safely housed, and the commute commenced,  such was the relief (expressed by the body language at least) that a momentary loss of purpose meant a slight detour had the slab reversing its tracks before being neatly deposited in its designated slot a few moments later. And I have to say that I know the feeling: glad that’s done.


Yes, it is sure a good feeling when the block is finally ‘in place’ and the latent tension, inevitably created by moving marble block, begins to dissipate. It is often at these times that my mind wanders to the block: just where did it come from?



When I carve my Colorado Yule Marble Sculpture I know precisely from whence it came, as all Yule originates from basically one quarry three miles along a dirt road outside the town of Marble, Colorado.  But when it comes to Carrara the question is not so simple, because whereas Yule is but a tiny speck of a quarry tucked into the side of a Rocky Mountain, Carrara is quarried so widely that the vast network of quarries are clearly visible from space!



For over two thousand years Italians have been enthusiastically digging away at the mountains overlooking the modest city of Carrara. And from a distance it presents a quite confusing spectacle. ‘Is it snowing up there?’ you think to yourself as you gaze upwards at the white-topped peaks.



But as you close in you realize that each little speck – or puff –  of white ‘up there’ is indeed a huge, massive quarry.


A Tonka toy boy’s dream.

Hands up all who want one of these.


What you cannot see in these pictures however is the noise. TreMENdous. Such an eerie sound as it bounces, crashes, and echoes around the vast marble canyon.



It doesn’t really matter which road you take, they will be there. Here, there and everywhere in fact.



Carrara’s long association with marble quarrying can be experienced almost at every turn.

So many are the quarries that, just as with the night sky when it comes to stargazing; stare at a spot long enough and sure enough a quarry will emerge through the wispy Mediterranean invoked clouds.






























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