Many first-time visitors assume the white mountain peaks forming Carrara's backdrop are capped with snow. In fact, the vista provides a breathtaking illusion – the lunar white is 2000 hectares of marble gouged out of the foothills of the Apuane Alps in vast quarries, 5km out of town, that have been worked since Roman times.

The texture and purity of Carrara's white marble (derived from the Greek marmaros, meaning shining stone) is unrivalled, and it remains the world's most sought-after. Michelangelo selected marble here for masterpieces such as Pièta (the veined marble he used for his iconic David came from a quarry in neighbouring Pietrasanta), while Carrara marble was used for London's Marble Arch and by Rodin to sculpt The Kiss.

Bar the thrill of admiring its marble pavements, marble street benches, decorative marble putti, marble-clad post office and marble everything else, Carrara doesn't offer much for the visitor.