Monday, November 2, 2009

The Day We Went to Castelnuovo - Part One

Thursday is market day in Castelnuovo and people come from all over the Garfagnana with their produce. A cookbook I have on food in Tuscany said such wonderful things about the market and a couple of shops there, that we just had to go.

Claudi had told me that we didn't need to first drive south to Lucca because there was a more direct route, which she pointed out to me on a map. So we set out around 10am. That was our first mistake, but it could actually be called our second, as it would probably have been better if I had not received that "short-cut" tip.

The route involved a definite uphill climb. Italy is mountainous. Despite being from the mountains of British Columbia, we found the narrow road, the hairpin corners and the drop-off on one side to make for a very memorable drive. Up we climbed, passing mountainside villages that we thought we would not even get near. We also passed a sign that seemed to indicate road construction, but since none of us can read much Italian, we blissfully continued. However, way way up the mountain, the road was closed. A worker indicated we should go via Massa, which involved going right back down to sea level and then up again.

So down we went, passing numerous marble factories. A quick glance at a map showed that we were only about 5 km from Carrara, home of the famous marble of the same name. It was obvious that marble is a large part of the economy of that area.

Then we started to climb again. Another narrow, winding, steep road. At one point we stopped for a stretch. Across a precipice I noted a mountain top was being torn apart, with huge white areas being revealed. This was obviously a marble quarry. Note that I said that it was a mountain top. I assumed we would not be going up there, as in BC roads don't go to the tops of mountain, they go over passes. However Italy doesn't seem to do it the same way. We actually went right by that quarry. We must have climbed from sea level to at least 4000' in about 45 minutes or less.

At our resting spot I heard a big truck coming. I thought it might be a truck carrying marble, so I got myself and my camera ready. It worked! Luckily it moved slowly (if I were driving a big truck down that hill, I would drive slowly too!).

The truck had just passed these signs. Can't imagine how dangerous it would be to drive that truck in the winter!! Nor to meet one of those trucks on the road in the winter.

I see that I don't have any pictures of the quarry. If I remember correctly it was starting to drizzle, or maybe it was the unsettling feeling of being on the edge of a sheer drop-off when looking at the quarry. Anyway, no close-up photo. But when one is down at sea level and looks up to the mountains, at first glance you might think  there is a glacier up there, however it is the marble quarries! And there are many. I am quite sure that the picture below is of the quarry we passed by.

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