The Apuan Alps have been for centuries the object of research in particular for minerals, thus favouring the development of the mining activity that often constituted for many communities in Versilia the main economic resource. In Seravezza the Museum of Work and Popular Traditions, on display in the ‘Palazzo Mediceo’, dedicates a whole section to the history of the Versilian iron-foundries. In the commune of Stazzema, in particular, the Medici employed numerous resources in the mining industry, building smithies, foundries, laboratories, furnaces to the extent that extra manpower had to be called in from the Tyrol region, from Saxony and Hungary.
The tradition of the metallurgic sector has never been extinguished; while many of the old foundries of Versilia in time have been transformed into sawmills, in Pomezzana, a small hamlet near Stazzema, an old and well-known handicraft activity still survives today. Renzo Milani and sons are modern-day ironsmiths continuing the trade or rather the ‘art’ of the cutler. Today, just as years ago, the precious tools of the trade are realised for marble sculptors: double-faced cape chisels, stone-cutting chisels, stonemason’s hammers that all accompany the work of the artist from the quarry to the laboratory. The same utensils have been used since time immemorial, passing from the hands of Michelangelo down to those of the artists of today.
The old forge, in the locality of Grotta del Papa along the carriage road for Pomezzana, is still open to the public, providing a pleasant experience for all those who wish to know more about realising a work of art. Inside the ironworks it seems time has come to a standstill. Naturally the hydraulics of the past have been replaced with electricity, but part of the working of the iron can only be done by hand, such as the forging, or the incision of the rasp teeth obtained with a special burin driven by very swift blows with a little hammer. Alongside the continuance of an old craft there is also the modern-day production of surgical instruments, mostly scalpels, that the Milani forge realises for surgeons all over Italy and also in the rest of the world.