Last week we published the first part of this 2 part blog, From Quarry to Countertop - “White Spiders”...read it here!
The Tecchiaiolo use their flexibility, agility, and grace to quickly move across the face of the quarries: assessing dangers, removing impediments, and protecting the lives of those below them. This job is very demanding - both physically and mentally - as they dangle in the air and protect the lives of the quarrymen.
In generations past, the climbers used large, heavy ropes tied around trees embedded in the marble to climb down and do their job.
Today’s Tecchiaiolo use updated mountaineering techniques and equipment to make their jobs safer. Better anchors and synthetic ropes help to keep them safer while they climb.
Most Tecchiaiolo today are younger - under 45-50 years old. They’re in great physical condition.
They have a unique ability to listen to the mountain. They listen for the empty sound in the marble’s imperfections that highlights the danger lurking behind. They rely on this ability to help foresee where a slide is going to happen. And they need to trust each other absolutely. Their lives are in each others’ hands on a daily basis.
In the documentary, an older Tecchiaiolo teaches: The marble has a direction to it, to cut it effortlessly. The opposite direction is called “contro.” If you cut the wrong way, the stone breaks up. The “hair” is a natural rift in the stone face. The Tecchiaiolo need to know which stones are good to cut away and which ones need to be left.
They also need to be humble - and respect the nature around them.
In the documentary, Galassi notes:
“The Tecchiaolo job involves attachment, the knowledge, the skills, and the values of generations shaped by the sacrifice of quarry labour, passion for mountaineering, & speleology. It involves awareness of a difficult choice, a conflicted love for a mountain that one loves and in the same time one hurts.”
He also notes [English translation]:
“Like a spider, whitened by the marble dust, the Tecchiaiolo clings for hours to the bare rock overlooking the town of Carrara, both in summer heat and winter frost. He lives fully rooted in the Apuan region, halfway between the peak and the abyss. Not only the sea is within reach, it’s in the mountain itself. Marble is but a fossil deposit of petrified weeds and corals. Thousand-year layers of organisms once living in the Mediterranean Sea depths. The marble is their metamorphosis cast hundred yards towards the sky in the form of extra pure crystals of calcium carbonate. Hence the mountain is like the sea. It inspires the same ancient and sacred respect.”
Another of the Tecchiaiolo speaks: “You can’t speak of sea and mountain as forgiving entities. We are helpless in front of them.”
To view this documentary, please visit Luca Galassi’s “Ragni Bianchi” documentary "White Spiders" here!