When we first drove to Lucca, we drove past Carrara and saw the white marble quarries all over the gray mountains. It was amazing. Who hasn’t heard of Carrara marble, from which Michelangelo’s David and Pieta are carved? Michelangelo himself came to Carrara to select the marble for these masterpieces.

We decided to do something different from seeing one more beautiful Tuscan town and went to Carrara, Italy to take a tour of the quarries. The roads zigzagged all over the mountain and it took three attempts, even with GPS, to find the place, but we did. We had a great tour in a Range Rover to the highest quarries, where the view was grand and the quarry fascinating. There are 200 (!) active quarries today, and marble has been quarried here for over 2000 years.

After the tour, we ate at the restaurant next to where the tour had started. “Is the food good?”, I asked our guide who spoke fluent English. “Well, my grandmother is the chef, so yes” was the answer. It was very good, and we tried the local and apparently world-famous Lardo di Colonnata, pork fatback seasoned with rosemary and aged in marble (what else?) tubs.

Afterwards, we drove over the mountains of the Apuan Alps, part of the Tuscan Apennines. The mountains are all marble, only 5% of which is being quarried, and the rest protected. According to our guide, the quarries are not allowed to change the profile of the mountains (as seen from the sea), which would affect weather patterns inland. Makes sense. The roads were twisty and narrow, and Gretchen suffered some scrapes as an oncoming truck attempted to squeeze onto the narrow bridge we were already crossing. È la vita. The drive was spectacular, with craggy peaks above the clouds.

Doing something different makes these moments more amazing.