Italian Village lightens it shady valleys with its own sun

In Northern Italy, the small town of Viganella sits next to the side of the very steep Antrona Valley. The Valley is surrounded by mountains which blocks the sunshine making it a deep dark valley. 

Every year, the sun does not rise for 3 months from 11th November to 2nd February. The town has only 160 residents. 

According to a report, generations of locals have spent over 800 winters in the dark since the 13th century. Every year, after the last sunset, the whole town eagerly awaits for the sunrise. When the sun rises again after 3 months, everyone dresses up and celebrates the return of light with traditions, customs and rituals. 

In 1999, Giacomo Bonzani, a local architect, proposed installing a sundial on the facade of a church. Pierfranco Midali, the then mayor, dismissed the idea and asked him to bring the sun to the valley instead by using Laws of Reflection. 

The idea was ultimately put into action. Bonzani, along with engineer Gianni Ferrari designed an 8×5 m mirror. It cost about €1,00,000. The mirror was placed on a nearby peak to reflect sunlight for 6 hours a day by following the sun’s path with the help of a software program that makes it rotate. 

The project finally saw the light of the day on December 17, 2006. The whole town was immersed in joy and celebration when the huge mirror made of steel positioned on the top of 1,100 metre high mount Scagiola reflected sunlight  onto the town’s square. 

The reflected light was not as warm as the natural sunlight, but it was enough to warm up the town. The idea was not scientific or practical, it only emerged from the desire to somehow make people socialise in winter. 

Other towns around the world took inspiration from Viganella’s success. After a group of engineers came to Viganella to study the mirror on site, in 2013, a similar mirror was installed in Rjukan, Norway.