“The most beautiful marble mountains of the world.”
Celebrating Earth Heritage
The Alpi Apuani UNESCO Global Geopark is located in north-western Tuscany. The Apuan Alps is well-defined and delimited by the Serchio river (to the north-east, east and south), the Aulella stream, tributary of Magra river (to the north and northwest) and the borders of the Massa Carrara-Versilia plain (to the south-west). The UNESCO Global Geopark comprises the whole territory of the Apuan Alps regional Park and includes all the high slopes next to the main watershed of the mountain range and the deep Apuan valleys. This is why the height difference ranges from 1,947 m a.s.l. of Mt. Pisanino to 45 m a.s.l. of the Frigido river near Massa.
The Apuan Alps, at the north-western edge of Tuscany in Northern-Central Italy, are a fascinating orographic complex, worldwide known for its marbles, abysses and caves of its karst underground. 250 geosites testify to the outstanding geodiversity of the Geopark. The geological heritage is characterized by a tectonic window at the centre of the Apuan ridge showing the oldest geological units of the Apenninic belt, belonging to the Paleozoic (about 500 million years ago). The Apuan Alps have long been considered a classical area of the Italian geology, as they represent the most important tectonic window of the Northern Appennines where the lowermost units of the belt are exposed, being formed by a complex of greenschist metamorphic rocks. This complex is overthrusted by allochthonous units formed by non-metamorphic rocks. Overall, the Apuan Alps display rocks covering a long time span, from the Palaeozoic basement to the Cenozoic foredeep sandstones. However, their characteristic rocks are the marbles (e.g. the Carrara marble) occurring at different levels of the metasedimentary sequences. As for mineralogy, the Apuan Alps are also a very interesting area with about 200 mineral species, among which 18 were discovered in this region.
The Geopark area is a mountainous territory of great geo-environmental value due to its flora and fauna, which are rich in endemic animals (cave salamander Speleomantes ambrosii, coleoptera Duvalius apuanus, etc.) and vegetal species (small flower Globularia incanescens, plant Salix crataegifolia, etc.).
Sustaining local Communities
The Alpi Apuani UNESCO Global Geopark is located within the administrative borders of 20 municipalities.
The fame of the Apuan Alps is due to the beauty of their marbles whose quarrying dates back to Etrurian population (6th c. B.C.) and more significantly to Roman period. During the Renaissance many artists such as Donatello and Michelangelo turned to the Apuans to get the white marble for their sculptures. The Geopark includes the Corchia Underground System and the Equi Terme Park, integrating tourist geosites (quicksilver mines, underground quarries, museums, speleological trails, paleontological sites and thermal springs).
The UNESCO Global Geopark territory is a special open-air educational laboratory, as it is characterized by natural phenomena of extraordinary illustrative value, the most remarkable being geological. The UNESCO Global Geopark engages in tourism activities in parallel with the promotion of environmental and nature education and promotes initiatives relating to geo-conservation and/or improvement of the sustainable use of non-renewable geo-resources. Every year the UNESCO Global Geopark offers courses for primary and secondary schools and excursions with the help of the Park Guides. The programme envisages initiatives on the tradition and culture of the Apuan territory as well as activities promoting the understanding and knowledge of landscapes and environments, with a focus on bio- and geodiversity. During summer, the Park organizes “green weeks” in the protected and surrounding area for kids from 8 to 15 years old. Educational activity takes place in the woods and high-altitude meadows while the Park provides facilities for their accommodation.