8 km from the marble quarries of Carrara is the town of Colonnata, situated among the Apuane Alps of Northern Tuscany.
Marble from this region has been used since the time of ancient Rome. The Pantheon and Trajan’s Column are made from Carrara marble as are hundreds of monuments and sculptures in Italy and throughout the world.
A monument in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC features portrait busts of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement sculpted from an 8 ton block of Carrara marble.
For thousands of years the quarrymen of the region have eaten seasoned lard (lardo) aged in marble tubs (conca) excavated from the work site.
The work was hard and the Lardo di Colonnata provided them with the calories needed to carve and transport the marble blocks that would be used for many of Italy's most famous monuments and sculptures (Carrara was the source of the marble used by Michelangelo).
Today the cured lard of the quarryman's sandwich is an artisanal delicacy served as an antipasto.
The technique used for making Lardo di Colonnata remains unchanged since ancient times although today there is a regulatory board that guarantees that the ingredients are prepared and processed according to strict guidelines to ensure an authentic and safe product.
The lardo is made from a layer of fat from the back of pigs native to Tuscany called the Cinta Senese or Sienese Belt pig because of the white band around their chest (cinta means sash in Italian). Sienese Cinta pigs are said to have a higher percentage (57%) of oleic or "good" fat as opposed to the normal pig's 50%, which makes the meat tastier, healthier and of a fine intense red color.
Cinta pigs were raised in and around Siena as early as the 14th century. A Cinta Senese is depicted in a famous fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1338) in Siena’s Palazzo Comunale titled L’Allegoria del buon governo (the good/wise government). In the contra fresco il cattivo governo (the bad government), the pigs are missing.
You can stop off at one of the many trattorie around Carrara and Colonnata to sample what once must have been Michelangelo's sandwich.
Now a Tuscan delicacy, the best lardo will be a gleaming white color with a smooth and creamy texture and intoxicating flavor.
Aged for 6 to 10 months in the cool, dry mountain air the lardo emerges as an aromatic, glistening white block. A translucent slice draped over a piece of warm toast will be brought to your table full of the flavor of aromatic spices and herbs, almost like an offering of incense.
Written and contributed by italy taste and travel