This part of the La Maddalena Archipelago, due to its history, deserves an in-depth description.
The First Extractions
The quarries of Cala Francese were opened in 1860 as a result of the important and impressive works of military fortifications that were built starting from 1850. The area, which is located close to the rocky spur of Nido d'Aquila, has an area of over 200,000 square meters, on which warehouses, laboratories, sheds for the processing of monumental ashlars were built, shed for the locomotive and transport wagons, accommodation for the stonecutters, rails, cranes, dock for ships and barges and the like.
Neglecting the small quantity extracted with primitive methods, in 1870 the Banca Costruzioni of Genoa began a systematic exploitation of the granite of Cala Francese, hiring several hundred stonecutters en masse, importing them from the continent and thus starting an economic mechanism of considerable proportions. Among these stonemasons, many were anarchists, who later contributed by self-taxing to grow the league of quarrymen of Villasimius, who were able to organize a strike that was suffocated in blood
Grondona Family purchases the quarries
This sad fact, promoted a general protest, in fact, sparked the first national strike in Italy. Leaving aside these facts that belong to the great history, let's go back to our quarry that a few years after its birth, changed owners, passing from the Genoese Bank to the English engineer Bertlin, who despite not having the right financial means, was nevertheless endowed with a strong sense commercial and important friendships in the capital. In 1897, when the engineer Bertlin died, the concession of the quarries passed to the Genovese Marcenaro and Grondona Company, which on 31 July 1901 formed a limited partnership "Export of Sardinian Granites". First in the world together with the Norwegian one, granite took off without any problem and it was thus that the number of stonecutters increased dramatically. The processed product was exported throughout the Mediterranean and as we have said also in America. Three hundred and fifty tons of the best quality granite were produced daily.
The International Expansion and the Prestigious Works
Thus it was that from the granite of the quarries of Cala Francese, important works arose such as: the dry docks of Taranto, Biserta, Palermo, Naples, Genoa and Venice, port works in Oran, Alexandria in Egypt, Tripoli, Porto Sudan, Caen, Genoa , Venice, Crotone, the quays of the Suez Canal, the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York, etc., paving of city streets or squares (via Balbi and Corso Buenos Aires in Genoa, Piazza Venezia in Rome, etc.), bridges ( Ponte Palatino and parts of the Lungo Tevere in Rome, Ponte Doria in Genoa, Ponte sul Po in Piacenza), tunnels and viaducts (Galleria Mazzini in Genoa), architecturally important buildings (Palazzo della Borsa in Rome, buildings in Piazza de Pretis and via Duomo in Naples etc.), the monuments dedicated to D. Guzmao of Santos (Brazil), to the fallen of Arquata Scrivia, to Garibaldi (in the first centenary of his birth) in Piazza XXIII Marzo della Maddalena, and finally the most important work of the “Soc. Export of Sardinian Granites ”, the monumental complex erected in 1930 in Djebel Mariam (Ismailia) and entitled to the“ Defense of the Suez Canal ”.
This monument consists of a quadrangular base of m. 24 per side and m. 2.70 in height, surmounted by two pylons, 38 meters high, and at the foot two gigantic winged figures of 9 meters each, one representing the Intelligence carrying the torch, the other the Force placed to guard the destinies of the country . All made in bare granite, designed by the architect Michel Roux Spitz, by the sculptor Raymond Delamarre, author of the drawings and sketches, while the execution of the work was carried out by expert stonecutters from the quarry. This significant supply of more than 2000 cubic meters of worked granite made abroad, is stated in the publication edited by the "Soc. Export of Sardinian Granites ”, from which these data were taken.
The Closing and the Rebirth
The mining activity stopped with the outbreak of the Second World War, and the quarries never reopened, leaving its cracks, but above all the pegmatites to scholars and mineralogy enthusiasts, who a little at a time and for such a small location , they discovered a variety of minerals certainly the richest in the whole national territory.