The Earth at our Feet

On the first floor of a somewhat unassuming and rather ugly building housing a pharmacy and looking out onto Fornaci di Barga’s Friday morning street market is a wonderful mineralogical museum. It must be one of the most underpublicized attractions in the area and is well worth a visit even if one is not immediately drawn to things geological.

The museum is run by the Mineralogical and Paleontological Group of Fornaci di Barga founded in 1973. The group began by searching for fossils in the mountains in Garfagnana. Shortly afterwards, they also began collecting minerals, and specialised in exploring and surveying the sites of the area’s abandoned mines.

The museum was set up in 1977 when the first exhibition of the materials collected by members of the group was held. There is a mineral and also a paleontological collection. The former is made up mainly of minerals and rocks from the territory of Lucca although there are quite a few examples from other parts of the world. Some of the examples are quite stunning.

The museum gives an excellent idea of what lies beneath the formation of this area’s extraordinary mountain formations and is rather well-laid out with clearly-labelled displays.

More than 150 types of minerals have been catalogued. Of special interest is the collection of marbles, of which there are around 150 different specimens of this metamorphic rock. The paleontological collection is made up of fossils from the territory of middle and upper Garfagnana and even includes a fully preserved toy dinosaur (!). There is plenty to delight one here, including a magnificent ammonite.

As someone who enjoyed discovering sharks’ teeth from the Triassic era in Abbey Wood’s Blackheath beds in London I particularly appreciated these massive specimens.

One of the leading members of the group, and an outstanding and respected geologist, is Marco Barsanti. Barsanti is truly a courageous person. He has been working, not exactly alongside the Taleban, but certainly in Taleban-infested territory in north-west Pakistan researching and instructing the local tribes on how to extract precious minerals without unduly damaging the mountains and without blowing themselves up.

Barsanti has contributed to a very interesting geological web site at and his discoveries and insights have achieved world-wide status. In particular, the Geological Museum in London’s south Kensington has recognized Marco’s insights and identifications of hitherto unclassified geological specimens.

Meetings of the group are held every Thursday at 9 pm at the museum. On the occasion I was last there was a fascinating lecture on research undertaken on old abandoned mines near Fornovolasco. As mentioned in a previous post at this was clearly an area of great early industrial significance – a sort of Italian Ironbridge, if you like. Around Christmas the very social group also have a convivial dinner at a local restaurant.

It’s important to check up when the museum is open. All the information you need is on the web site mentioned above.


3 thoughts on “The Earth at our Feet

  1. Pingback: Chicanery to be Abolished | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

  2. Pingback: The Merry Month of May has Arrived! | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two

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