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Friday, February 27, 2009

Baveno Pink Granite

There are little pieces of Baveno all over the world. Baveno is the next town over from Stresa, only 1.5 miles to the east along the lake. Like Stresa it has its piazza, elegant hotels on the lakefront, beautiful churches, but it is famous for one thing in particular that Stresa does not have. Baveno Pink Granite. The Vittorio Emanuele Galleria in Milan is built with Baveno Pink Granite. So are the columns of the Paris Opera House, the Church of St. Charles in Vienna, and the statue of Christopher Columbus in New York City. Many other well known landmarks around the globe in fact, have chosen this granito, granite, because of its distinctive appearance and color.

Baveno pink granite is indeed quite pink. It’s found in abundance on the eastern side of the Mt. Mottarone mountain mass, from the mountain called Mt. Camoscio all the way to the Baveno shoreline. Look at the photo I use on the top of this blog. I’ve taken the picture from Isola Bella, looking towards Isola Pescatore and Baveno. On the far left of the photo you can see the edges of the quarried mountain, cut away in large sections and plateaus. I can’t tell you that the work isn’t a bit of a visual mar on the otherwise perfect view, and it’s why I cropped my photo at that spot, but Baveno has made this sacrifice willingly, the granite has brought the town prosperity and fame.


Although there is evidence of its use as early as the 1500s, quarrying in earnest began in the 1800s, and the industry brought hundreds to Lago Maggiore, looking for employment. Many who live here today can claim ancestors who worked those quarries. And therefore Baveno is proud to have this natural resource. So much so that a statue along the lake, built of Baveno pink granite of course, celebrates the scalpellino, the stonecutters, who made it all possible with their hard labors. And so much so that plans are in the works for a museum, scheduled to open next year, dedicated to the precious pink stone and its part in the history of this region.


The statue is called Picasass, the Piemontese dialect word for stonemason.
Pica... meaning hit, and sass... meaning stone.



Where can you see this granite here? The statue of course, as well as the path along the lake in Baveno. And keep your eyes open for it in your surroundings, you’ll start to see pink buildings everywhere. So it’s another thing to look for in your travels, not only here but worldwide. If you see the Baveno pink granite, take comfort that you are close to a little piece of Italy, a piece of Lago Maggiore.

The walkway along the lakefront in Baveno is paved with Baveno Pink Granite.



If you’re interested in a closer look at the quarry and you have a car, you can reach it in this way: From the A26 motorway, exit for Baveno. From the district called "Tranquilla", in the upper part of the Oltrefiume hamlet, drive up the asphalt road which offers a broad view over the famous quarries.


In addition to the Baveno Pink Granite there are over 60 other types of minerals found at the quarry, some named after Baveno itself, such as Bavenite and Bazzite. The site is geologically important, and studied extensively.



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