What is 'Verona Red'? A new shade of lipstick? No, it is the shiny marble which is used for the pavements and important buildings in the city, the same stone used on St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
It is a marble (well, according to geologists it is not strictly speaking marble because it has not undergone certain physical and chemical changes but marble cutters consider it to be marble) with a warm red, almost orange colour which adds a certain radiance to the buildings and streets of the city.
If you have visited Verona before, you will have noticed fossils of ammonites on the pinkish pavements of the city centre, made from marble taken from the nearby Lessini mountains. I still love looking out for those funny little fossils as I wander around.
The history of Verona’s marble started millions of years ago
If there are fossils in the marble, how old is it? Around 150 million years old!
During the Jurassic period, there was a sea where Verona stands and layers of mud and shells settled on the bottom. When the earth’s tectonic plates later collided, several chains of mountains were forced up, including the Lessini. This explains why there are so many fossils of ammonites, sea urchins and fish in this area, as can be seen at the Bolca fossil museum, which I recommend visiting.
Where does this red and pink marble come from?
The marble which decorates the whole of Verona comes mainly from the Lessinia mountains and Monte Baldo above Lake Garda. There are large quarries there, mining red and pink marble, but the area is also famous for craftsmen and women who work marble from all over the world to decorate religious buildings, luxurious hotels or to create elegant sinks and flooring. There are three main areas where Verona marble is extracted: Prun and the western part of the Lessini mountains, Caprino and Valpolicella and Valpantena.
Pink limestone from Prun
The marble from the quarries in Prun, known as Scaglia Rossa in Italian, varies in colour from a pinkish white to a deep red. In this quarry, the marble is not extracted in blocks but in large slabs of different thicknesses. These are used for paving the streets, indoor and outdoor floors and are even used for roofs. Unlike the stone from Valpolicella and Valpantena, the marble-cutters in this area of the Lessini mountains work almost exclusively with local stone.
The old Caprino - Valpolicella quarries The Caprino
Valpolicella area has the longest history of marble working, with the earliest quarries and workshops dating back more than 2,000 years. It was during the Roman era that marble began to be widely used in public works, such as the Arena.
Marble cutting in Valpantena
Since the last century, particularly in Valpantena, but also in Valpolicella, quarrying has been scaled back and there has been a greater focus on marble cutting. These areas are famous for their stone cutting, the art of working, polishing and sculpting marble, stone and granite used to decorate buildings all across the world.
Verona, a showcase for red marble
Millions of people have walked over them for thousands of years and they are still there! What am I talking about? The pinkish slabs used to pave the streets of the old town, the pavements you walk on in Piazza delle Erbe or the Liston along the side of Piazza Bra in the Arena. Talking of which, the Arena itself was built using pink marble from Prun. Which is living proof of how hard and durable this marble is!
Where else can we see Verona marble and its fossils? There are the pavements of Corso Portoni Borsari, the Scala della Ragione staircase between Piazza Erbe and Piazza dei Signori and the floor and the lions at the San Zeno church, a little way outside the city centre. In fact, there are many more places and buildings in Verona where red marble has been used, you will start to notice it everywhere.
Marmomac: the marble trade show
The fact that 25-30% of Italian marble exports come from Verona province is thanks in no small part to Marmomac. Are you looking for ideas for decorating the inside or outside of your house? Make a date with Marmomac in Verona at the end of September and the start of October. It is an international marble fair, dedicated to the marble and stone which is quarried in the region, such as tuff and granite, and technologies for working these stones.