With a rich history, and beautiful scenery, Sant’Ambrosio di Valpolicella is like many small towns found throughout the Veneto region of Italy. A quiet village known for its red wines, terracotta roofs and an abundance of small vineyards dotting the landscape. But most visitors to the region usually gravitate to nearby Verona to have a pizza and beer across from the Arena in Piazza Bra or stop by the legendary balcony of Romeo and Juliet after walking along Via Giuseppe Mazzini. However, from 1961 to 1992, Sant’Ambrosio was the center of the universe in the emerging stone industry. Stone entrepreneurs throughout Europe and other continents ventured out to this sleepy town to witness the fusion of stone and machines in its infancy.

Sant’ Ambrosio hosted a stone machinery fair called Marmomacchine, or Marble Machine.

It was a small machinery fair that drew local and foreign visitors. Those who knew about the tiny stone fair made the trek every year during one precious week in September. In the early days, only a handful of Americans visited the show, or even knew about it, but once they made the trip, they were hooked. The event was covered by a brave start-up magazine called Stone World, who shared the experience with enthusiastic American readers in the 1980s.

Marmomachinne was a machine show. A place to find a machine or solution for every step of the production process -- from quarrying to finished product. Italian ingenuity at its finest. Every year the show always revealed something new and exciting. Efficiency in marble production had arrived, making stone an affordable luxury. 

A wave of stone suppliers, eager to participate in the show, signed up to exhibit. More and more companies offering stone products came to display their goods and services at the annual event. Gradually, the number of stone suppliers outnumbered their machinery counterparts. And the stone fair, as we know it today, was born.

The local fair grounds of Sant’Ambrosio were small and antiquated compared to other venues that existed. The town didn’t have many hotels and services, nor the infrastructure needed to accommodate the growing number of annual visitors who only showed up in September. 

So, the show moved to the Verona Fairgrounds, close to the center of the city of Verona, where it could reach its full potential as an international trade event. 

Rebranded as Marmomac, what was once a small machinery show was now the main attraction in the stone community. Marmomac had become the destination for stone industry professionals from around the globe, including architects, engineers or anyone passionate about natural stone.

The Verona Fairgrounds is an enormous indoor and outdoor event. A unique place where producers coalesce with machinery manufacturers to form a natural stone ecosystem.

Visitors stand next to colossal frontend loaders and examine sophisticated quarry equipment or get close to massive gangsaws and polishing lines. Ambitious quarriers from all parts of the globe display blocks of marble, granite, travertine and onyx, while producers proudly exhibit their finished slabs, tiles and dimensional skills. The same producers who exhibit their stones also walk the halls looking for machinery that will improve their yields and reduce costs.  Verona became an oasis for the stone enthusiast, where every tool could be found, every stone was on display and every technical question could be answered. If it had something to do with stone, it was at Marmomac.

The demand for stone products in America inspired the creation of Stone Expo, America’s national stone show, which debuted in Atlanta in 1987. Stone Expo developed a growing number of loyal followers. The interdependence between stone and machines inspired the merger between StonExpo and Marmomac -- enriched with a variety of educational sessions and presentations geared toward the stone community. Stone entrepreneurs and curious neoliths in America no longer needed to travel overseas to experience a world-class stone event.

The popularity of natural stone captured new markets around the world. Other shows ensued, including Stone+tec in Nuremberg, Germany; Piedra in Madrid, Spain; Cachoeiro Stone Fair in Brazil; Stonemart India and Xiamen Stone Fair in China.

The relationship between marble and machines has come a long way since the early days of Marmomacchine. There are new priorities and challenges today like the environment and sustainability. Technology continues to bring stone to higher levels in terms of efficiency and practicality. From diamond tooling to CNC milling to waterjet cutting and laser templating, a new technique or just an inspiration, the stone show is the catalyst for the stone community to flourish. It’s the place to work with stone without getting dirty and a forum to learn from top stone experts who are ready to share their trade experiences.  

The next great innovation in the stone industry is waiting to be discovered. It won’t be found on a YouTube video or a Google Search, but by people visiting an international stone and machinery show… like the people who visited Marmomacchine in the 1980s in Sant’Ambrosio…before Google even existed.



Jonathan Mitnick is a partner at CCS Stone, Inc and owner of Mitnick Stone, Inc.

He currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Natural Stone Institute and is past chairman of the NSI Safety Committee. Jonathan Mitnick may be reached at jonathan@mitnickstone.com