A form of crystallized chalk that has a delicate, milky texture, alabaster lends itself to the sculpture of fine, flowing lines and close ornamental detail. Even in quite large blocks, it is translucent. The Etruscans and Romans extensively mined Volterra’s alabaster for sculpting. Until the 1960s, large alabaster factories were scattered throughout the town centre, but – not least because of the quantity of dust they threw up – large-scale production was moved to outlying areas. These days, only about a dozen artisans are permitted to maintain workshops in the town centre, and Volterra’s famous art school is the only one in Europe to train students to work alabaster.

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