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Tuscany – The Jewel of Italy.

A view of the Carrara Mountains.


Join me for a tour of places few get to see. As part of my work designing and sourcing stone and tile products for Walker Zanger over the last 20 years, I have been fortunate enough to visit many fascinating and exotic places around the world. I’ve had the opportunity see many lands, to immerse myself in a variety of cultures, and witness firsthand the architecture and craftsmanship of these regions; it’s an enriching education, and has made me a better designer. After all, who can come away from the Tuscan hills or the Andes of Peru without a new sense of the world?


One real treat of these travels is that the artisans and businesspeople I visit often take me to local sights or restaurants that are off the beaten track: places they frequent and where they are on friendly terms with the proprietors. Thus I’m able to see many things that most tourists don’t; here, then, I’d like to share with you some beautiful things to see, experiences to ponder, and authentic places to eat and drink—all presented from the point of view of someone with an unabashedly rabid devotion to all things stone and tile!


The jewels of Tuscany. The first stop on our journey is Italy, a country seemingly carved from the very marble of its foundation, with its sun-drenched towns and cities, and its beautiful stone-clad buildings with intricately tiled courtyards.


In Northern Tuscany, the Apuan Alps rise almost directly out of the blue Mediterranean, towering over the towns of Carrara and Masa. High up in these peaks is where we source our Calacata, Carrara, and Statuary white marble. And it was in this region that I penned the following passage:


“Dark blue-black clouds hang overhead; water pools on the ground from a recent downpour. The setting sun slips under the clouds, illuminating a yard full of wet blocks of white marble, which shimmer like jewels.”


Blocks of white marble glisten under the setting sun.


That’s one of my most vivid visual memories of Carrara, a place that nature blessed with the most famous marble in the world, a stone that has been sought after for thousands of years. These highly prized stones have been wrested from the earth since the days of ancient Rome. Valued for their crisp white backgrounds and grey, beige, and gold veins, these stones can be found in building, interiors and statuary around the world.


Over 2,000 years of tradition goes into quarrying and cutting every inch of these marble blocks and slabs. But, like precious gems, not every block hollowed from the earth is the finest grade. This is why we maintain an office in Carrara for the express purpose of selecting only the finest slabs and tiles to bear the Walker Zanger name. In fact, you can see the signature of Daniele Milani—third-generation stone expert and manager of our Italian office—on every bundle of white marble, signifying the finest quality available. A tour of the yards and quarries of Carrara with Daniele at the wheel—with his cigarette in one hand, while barking Italian into his ever-present mobile phone as he winds through the tiny streets or steep quarry roads—is a trip one never forgets!




The raw beauty of Carrara marble.


Vein-cut slabs highlighting the stone's natural movement.


Visible veining in the walls of the Crema Delicato quarry.


Crema Delicato Quarry in the mountains above Carrara.


A feast for the senses. But of course, this being Italy, it is never “all work and no play.” Every factory visit requires at least a pause in the office over a piping hot espresso (which you quickly learn to throw back like a shot of whiskey). If you are lucky enough to be up in the quarries at lunchtime, a visit to Colonnata, a village tucked into the mountains, offers the chance to eat at fine restaurants such as Vananzio and Mafalda. Cool off with samplings of the local wine varietals like white Vermentino as you enjoy local delicacies such as Lardo: cured strips of pork fat seasoned to perfection with rosemary and fresh basil. Traditionally, Lardo is cured for months in basins made of the local Carrara marble; it was a mainstay of workers in the quarries back in the days before machines did all the heavy lifting. If Lardo does not tempt you, ask for the Pasta Tritico, which is a plate of three different types of pasta, each one better than the next!





If this mini travelogue has whet your appetite for all things Italian, follow me this week as I revisit Italy to attend The International Exhibition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings, “CERSAIE” in Bologna and The International Trade Fair for Stone Design and Technology. “MARMOMAC” in Verona. I will be posting exciting new marble and stone designs straight from these exhibitions on Walker Zanger’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.


In my next post we will continue our tour of  Tuscany and Stone.  Until next time, Ciao!



Mosaic Monday… Stile Italiano.


Mosaic Monday… Jetset.


Mosaic Monday… Calacata.


Words on White.

We’ve all done it: opened the latest issue of a design magazine or logged onto Pinterest, and there it is leaping off the page or screen. The drop dead gorgeous, all white kitchen or bathroom of our dreams. You’ve pinned it, posted it, torn images out of magazines and committed to the decision. White is for you.  Now armed with all the visual tools… you’re ready to venture out and choose material. But as you start your journey you quickly realize that not all white is the same.  Here are some words on white  to help guide

you along.

 From Carrara to Calacata, which white marble is that really?

Italian White Marbles like Bianco Carrara and Calacata are some of the most popular counter- top and back-splash choices for today’s kitchens.  Because there are many varieties of Italian white marble that come from the same region of Italy and because many re-sellers use different names for them, it can be confusing to know what you are looking for and what you are getting when shopping for white marble for your kitchen project.


The Mountains of Carrara.


Italian White Marble, a classic for centuries

All the classic white Italian marbles come from the Carrara region of Italy located on the coast of Northern Tuscany. The mountains come almost up to the sea in this area, and white marbles have been quarried in these peaks since the time of the Roman Empire.  There are many marble quarries in this area but the three  main types are Bianco Carrara,  Statuary White and  Calacata, all of which are graded for specific attributes like the whiteness of the background and the color and movement of the veins.  This is similar to the way diamonds are graded for color, clarity and cut.  And, like diamonds, the higher the grade of white marble, the higher the price.  We are fortunate to have an office in Carrara, Italy staffed by third generation marble experts, who go into the quarries and block yards every day to select the finest marbles for us.


Quarry walls


Searching for the perfect slab.


Measuring a block.


Simple Italian White Marble Classifications

The simplest way to tell these materials apart is to use the “Background and Vein Color” rule.  The shorthand version of this is:

Bianco Carrara – A “grayish white” background with overall thin and feathery grey veining.

Statuary White – A cool, bright white background with thicker dark grey veining evenly distributed over the surface.

Calacata – A warm white background with a blend of thick and thin bands of  beige, light grey and green grey to blue grey.

A little more detail might help you make the best choice:


Bianco Carrara

There are three grades of  Bianco Carrara:


Bianco Carrara - Grey white background, thin dark grey veining and spots.


White Venatino - Medium white background with feathery light grey veining throughout.


Bianco Gioia - White background with widely spaced grey veining, highest grade of Bianco Carrara.


Statuary White

There are two grades of Statuary White:


Statuary White - Pure, cool, white background with medium size grey veins. Highest quantity has fewer veins, evenly distributed across the slab face. A very hard and dense marble.


Statuarietto - Background not as white, small and large darker grey veins and less clean white area in the slab.



Because of its popularity there are dozens of Calacata varieties on the market right now.  A few of our most  popular  Walker Zanger Calacata marbles are noted below:


Calacata F - This look is what most people think of when the imagine Calacata. It has a white background and wavy light grey veins varying from thin to thick across the face of the slab.


Calacata Regina - Warm white background with very soft green/grey veining. Calacata Regina is a perfect white marble choice if you are looking for an alternate to the typical grey veins of most white marbles.


Paonazzo - Warm white background with black and caramel colored veining. This lesser known Calacatta variant looks like antique marble and makes quite a statement.



Pricing for all 3 types of “Carrara White Marble” can vary widely depending on the grade of the stone.  The whiter and cleaner the background  and the more  evenly distributed  the veining, the higher the price. Like any precious commodity, the finest grade is only a small portion of the production and the demand definitely outstrips the supply.

Tips for shopping for White Marble

All  stone slabs are a product of nature, and no two are exactly alike.  That is especially true of the Italian Carrara Marbles, where the movement of the veining can vary greatly from one bundle of slabs to another.  Be sure to visit several reputable slab yards and spend time looking through the slabs and comparing them to find the ones that are just right for you in terms of price and quality.  Once you have found “the one” be sure the slab seller will hold the specific slab that you have fallen in love with for your fabricator to pick up.

To really appreciate the grandeur of Mother Nature and the art of all those who’s hands help create your kitchen or bath, take a moment to watch this amazing video…

The White Side of Carrara:






All photo images and text are the property of Walker Zanger. Please do not use for commercial purposes without permission. You are welcome to repost. copyright 2014.

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