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Italy’s ‘White Gold’ In Danger No End To It’s Demand

The demand is also taking its toll on the land.

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The Cervaiole marble quarry is seen on Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps, Tuscany, Italy, July 15, 2017.
The Cervaiole marble quarry is seen on Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps, Tuscany, Italy, July 15, 2017. VOA

There is no end to demand for what many consider to be Italy’s white gold, the marble from the Tuscan town of Carrara, a name synonymous with the very best money can buy in the world today. It is no secret, and it is not new. The quarrying in these mountains has been going on for more than 2,000 years.

The Romans were the first to be lured by the stone’s beauty and millions of tourists to this day still flock to admire some of the most magnificent ancient monuments made with this special stone, the likes of the Pantheon and Trajan’s Column in the Eternal City. And then there are famous statues like the David and the Pietà by Renaissance master Michelangelo.

So what is happening in Carrara today?

Artists, sculptors and architects have never ceased making regular pilgrimages here. M.J. Anderson, an American, first came to Carrara as a fledgling sculptor 36 years ago, drawn by the beautiful marble. Considering herself somewhat of a deconstructionist, she likes to take things apart.

“The great thing about carving marble is that once that stone is gone, it’s gone. You can’t lament about it and this keeps you moving forward in the creative process,” she said.

Sculptors like Anderson realize they are dealing with something quite extraordinary here.

“Carrara marble is consistently good. It does not fracture. It’s mined in a very cohesive manner. There’s no surprises when you are carving it. The molecules are put together very well and there’s so many different kinds of marble here. That is what is so special: there is gray, white and cream, in different densities as well and so a sculptor can find anything they want here that will suit their needs,” Anderson said.

That is what is bringing orders – and big money – from all over the world, from Arab nations and emerging markets like China, India and Thailand. Clients want their kitchens, bathrooms and staircases in their homes made from this precious material. Others come with specific ideas for a marble statue, which they commission from the very best marble sculptors in existence. To name just one example: a request came, in recent years, for a huge block to build a massive statue of Buddha.

 A view of a marble quarry and the coast of Versilia from the Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps, Tuscany, Italy, July 18, 2017.
A view of a marble quarry and the coast of Versilia from the Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps, Tuscany, Italy, July 18, 2017. VOA

A boom in the construction of mosques, especially in the Arab world and north Africa, has meant even more demand and big business for the marble quarrying companies. The Saudi Binladin Group, one of the world’s largest construction companies, acquired 50 percent of Marmi Carrara in recent years. Marmi Carrara owns a third of the quarries that are operational in the area today.

“Just the name Carrara basically says it’s the world’s best marble. It is the most beautiful. It has a centuries’ long history of being the best marble in the world and people come here looking for and wanting the very best,” Anderson said.

What is new is that the demand is moving away from the traditional markets.

“America has been extracting resources for a long time. Now, the money has shifted to the Middle East and they are the ones extracting the resources. That has always been the case. The Romans started the big quarries here in Carrara when they were building cities all over the Mediterranean basin and they were shipping marble out of here. It indicates where the world is shifting, where the resources are going and where the building is taking place,” said Anderson.

The great sculptors have historically been Italian, but now they come from all over world, and some have settled here. Students like 19-year old Xintong Gao come here to learn and take their knowledge home. He said his love of art, painting, and sculpture brought him here from China and he set his sights on enrolling at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara.

Working the marble may be a labor of love, but Gao said it is no easy work.

Not only is learning to sculpt the marble difficult, but extracting it has been a challenge for hundreds of years. Modern technology has made it easier and today the use of large quantities of diamond-tipped wires, saws and heavy earth-moving equipment is essential. The marble industry employs thousands of people but for those quarrying inside the mountains it is sometimes also dangerous work.

White gold bracelet
White gold bracelet, Pixabay

The demand is also taking its toll on the land.

Environmentalists have been expressing huge concerns for years that quarrying is dangerously eroding the mountains and significantly affecting the magnificent landscape of the Apuan Alps here. From afar, it looks like snow but in reality it is the bright marble that makes these mountains white all year round.

“It’s beautiful to see the quarries. They’re dramatic. They’re fabulous, the way the light hits these walls of marble,” said Anderson.

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Admittedly, she notes, the environmentalists’ concerns are not without a basis. “Of course marble does not re-grow. It’s not sustainable. It was made billions of years ago. It is terrible that extraction is occurring at such a rapid pace because of the industrialization. Marble is being taken out of here so fast that entire mountain tops are disappearing. They are extracting marble from the center of these mountains as well and so it is a huge concern. Worldwide the extraction of resources is a concern and what we are looking at here is also a really terrible mining practice,” she said.(VOA)

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Russia Registers 2nd Highest COVID Cases Globally, Surpasses Spain and UK

Russia registered 232,243 cases on Tuesday, 2nd highest globally

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coronavirus
Establishing a new world order in the times of corona will not be an easy task. Pixabay

The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has increased to 232,243 on Tuesday, the 2nd highest number of infections in the world surpassing the tallies in Spain and the UK, the country’s anti-coronavirus crisis centre said.

The tally surged to 232,243 after the 10,899 cases were reported over the past 24 hours, TASS News Agency quoted the centre as saying.

A total of 43,512 patients have recovered, while 2,116 people have died, it added.

According to the centre’s data, the daily growth rate on Tuesday was 4.9 per cent compared to 5.6 per cent the day before.

healthcare workers COVID-19
The centre’s data revealed that the daily growth rate on Tuesday was 4.9 per cent compared to 5.6 per cent the day before. VOA

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As of Tuesday, the number of coronavirus cases in Spain and the UK stood at 227,436 and 224,332, respectively, according to the Washington-based Johns Hopkins University.

Italy came in the fifth place with 219,814 cases, while the US accounted for the highest number of infections in the world at 1,347,936. (IANS)

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Here are 4 Travel Destinations for Couples

Honeymoon destination worth considering

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Couples
Here are some travel destinations for couples seeking a romantic holiday. Pixabay

One can pick from a wide array of idyllic locales such as Greece, Switzerland, South Africa, and Italy. But how do you choose whether you want to snuggle up in front of a fire and relax to the sound of the tides on a hammock? Heres is a list of this seasons handpicked hotels for the discerning traveller. Couples seeking the ultimate romantic holiday can choose from a range of experiences and settings such as – hidden getaways, wellness retreats, culinary sojourns and adventure in the wilderness.

1. The SECLUDED RETREAT

Myconian Villa Collection, Greece

Nestled into the hillside above Elia Bay, the Mykonian ?Villa Collection is a unique luxury? resort? ?concept. ?This tranquil island escape offers impeccable service with quintessential Greek decor accented by bespoke wood-crafted furnishing and vibrant fabrics. The essence of Myconian beauty and lifestyle runs like a blue thread through a constellation of exceptionally spacious suites and rooms, while superb villas offer the discreet yet boundless opulence of a private house in Mykonos. Leaning into the mountain, the terraced villas have uninterrupted views of the Aegean Sea, culminating in a 360-degree panorama on the vast entertainment deck with its plush bar, epicurean restaurant and saltwater infinity pool.

Travellers can choose the luxurious privacy of the Lover’s Suite where special services such as in-room evening meals, couples’ massages on the scenic deck, and other such intimate indulgences can be experienced. This Cycladic Island combines a romantic ambience for newlyweds with sandy beaches, turquoise waters and a world-class nightlife scene for evenings that take guests into the morning hours.

Guests can book a longer stay for 3 nights or more, and save up to 30% on the Best Available Rates at this member hotel with the �Stay More Save More Offer’ from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. This offer is valid for bookings made from now till December 31, 2019; for stays through March 31, 2020.

Greece couples
A holiday in Greece provides secluded retreat to couples. Pixabay

2. The WELLNESS GETAWAY

The Capra, Switzerland

An intimate, alpine luxury spa lodge in a spectacular natural setting. The Capra is a car-free Swiss ski resort, also a favourite among winter sports connoisseurs. There is guaranteed high-quality snow, and authentic charm – combining the cosiness of a chalet with the comforts of a luxury hotel. Expansive suites in warm earthy tones have panoramic views of snow-frosted peaks, pristine valleys, and wide-open skies where guests can relax, recharge and reconnect with nature. The fire-lit lounge, well-appointed library, and deluxe spa are designed to soothe the senses. Even more indulgent is the wholesome farm-to-table cuisine offered at the hotel.

The Spa at the resort is run and managed by Peak Health. Their goal is not only to help guests to unwind, but to develop personal strategies and holistic approach to resetting health based on the latest scientific research by a team of wellness experts from around the globe. The Spa offers a fully immersive retreat programme that helps guests transform their lifestyle, it also consists of indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pools, salt-therapy rooms, saunas, fully equipped gym, yoga studio, and a varied selection of intensive treatments for the mind and body.

3. ADVENTURE ESCAPE

Gondwana Game Reserve, South Africa

Less than a four-hour drive from Cape Town International Airport, along South Africa’s scenic Garden Route, the 11,000-hectare Private Game Park offers a distinctive and luxurious safari destination with free-roaming Big 5 safari animals (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, and leopard). Gondwana Game Reserve is known for its well-appointed safari lodge accommodation, awe-inspiring views, attentive service, exquisite South African cuisine, and an array of adventure-linked activities including game drives, birdwatching, fynbos walks, mountain biking, hiking trails and more. Luxury accommodation is offered in Kwena Lodge, a modern twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling. The 14 open-plan suites are nestled into the breath-taking natural surroundings with 180-degree views, skylights for star gazing, fireplaces and deep baths.

Gondwana Game Reserve is an ideal African honeymoon destination for adventure enthusiasts. It is a picture-perfect retreat where guests can create lasting memories on their romantic vacation, from immersing themselves in the spectacular scenery, enjoying private dining experiences, to the reinvigorating Africology massages at the spa and more.

Italy couples
Italy is a very romantic travel place for couples. Pixabay

4. CULINARY SOJOURNS

Il Castelfalfi, Italy

Nestled amid the sun-kissed Tuscan hills, surrounded by vineyards, centuries-old olive trees and period farmhouses, Il Castelfalfi is the perfect getaway to plan a romantic escape. Sample traditional ingredients and flavours with a cooking class at Rosso Toscano Cooking school and visit the local vineyards to discover the favourite wines. Once set in a village, the grounds now surrounding the resort are filled with charming shops and restaurants sure to transport travellers to a different era.

At the gourmet restaurant – La Rocca di Castelfalfi, top chef Michele Rinaldi reinterprets traditional cuisine for guests to savour. Located within the medieval castle brought back to life after a meticulous restoration, the restaurant is a landmark in the village, where guests enjoy the authentic taste of

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The above-listed hotels are members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts – Legend Collection. Guests can book a longer stay for 3 nights or more, and save up to 30% on the Best Available Rates at this member hotel with the �Stay More Save More Offer’ from Preferred Hotels & Resorts. This offer is valid for bookings made from now till December 31, 2019; for stays through March 31, 2020. (IANS)

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Italy to Make Climate Change and Sustainable Development Study Compulsory for School Children

Many traditional subjects, such as geography, mathematics and physics, would also be studied from the perspective of sustainable development

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Italy, Climate Change, Sustainable Development
Italy's Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti gestures during an interview with Reuters in Rome, Italy, November 4, 2019. VOA

Italy will next year become the world’s first country to make it compulsory for schoolchildren to study climate change and sustainable development, Education Minister Lorenzo Fioramonti said.

Fioramonti, from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, is the government’s most vocal supporter of green policies and was criticized by the opposition in September for encouraging students to skip school and take part in climate protests.

In an interview in his Rome office on Monday, Fioramonti said all state schools would dedicate 33 hours per year, almost one hour per school week, to climate change issues from the start of the next academic year in September.

Many traditional subjects, such as geography, mathematics and physics, would also be studied from the perspective of sustainable development, said the minister, a former economics professor at South Africa’s Pretoria University.

Italy, Climate Change, Sustainable Development
Fioramonti, from the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, is the government’s most vocal supporter of green policies and was criticized by the opposition in September. Pixabay

“The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the center of the education model,” Fioramonti told Reuters in the interview conducted in fluent English.

“I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.”

Fioramonti, 42, the author of several books arguing gross domestic product should no longer be used as the main measure of countries’ economic success, has been a target of the right-wing opposition since becoming a minister in the two-month-old government of 5-Star and the center-left Democratic Party.

His proposals for new taxes on airline tickets, plastic and sugary foods to raise funds for education were strongly attacked by critics who said Italians were already over-taxed.

 

He then sparked fury from conservatives when he suggested crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms to create a more inclusive environment for non-Christians.

Despite the criticism, the government’s 2020 budget presented to parliament this week included both the plastic tax and a new tax on sugary drinks.

“I was ridiculed by everyone and treated like a village idiot, and now a few months later the government is using two of those proposals and it seems to me more and more people are convinced it is the way to go,” Fioramonti said.

ANTI-SALVINI

Italy, Climate Change, Sustainable Development
In an interview in his Rome office on Monday, Fioramonti said all state schools would dedicate 33 hours per year, almost one hour per school week, to climate change issues from the start. Pixabay

Surveys showed 70-80% of Italians backed taxing sugar and flights, he said, adding that coalition lawmakers had told him they would table budget amendments to introduce his proposal to hike air ticket prices before the budget is approved by end-year.

Fioramonti said targeted taxes of this kind were a way of discouraging types of consumption which were harmful to the environment or individuals, while generating resources for schools, welfare or lowering income tax.

In this vein, he suggested other levies on various types of gambling and on profits from oil drilling.

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His progressive positions on the economy and the environment are the antithesis of Matteo Salvini’s hard-right League, which has overtaken 5-Star to become easily Italy’s most popular party, with more than 30% of voter support. (VOA)