A VILLAGE in the foothills of the Italian Alps that sees no sun for nearly three months a year is to brighten its winters by using a giant mirror to reflect sunshine onto its main square.
This week, the 197 mostly elderly inhabitants of Viganella, which is buried in the narrow Antrona valley, north of Turin, will gather for the arrival of a tailor-made sheet of steel 26ft wide and 16ft high. It will be flown by helicopter to a designated spot on the mountainside.
The mayor, Pierfranco Midali, who is spearheading the project, is confident that the hamlet will no longer have to suffer from a complete absence of direct sunlight for 83 days a year, from November 11 to February 2.
Midali, a train driver, first set the ball rolling with a throwaway comment seven years ago after he commissioned a sundial for the bare facade of the parish church.
“I told Giacomo Bonzani, the architect who made the sundial, not to bother with November 11 to February 2, to leave it unfinished so people would understand there is no light then,” Midali recalled.
“Then I told him that if he could bring me a project to bring the sun to Viganella, I would back it to the hilt,” he said.
The plan was at first greeted with disbelief by many locals and the local council, who argued that it would never work. “I was a bit sceptical at first,” admitted Franco, owner of the Cafe Bar delle Alpi. “But now I’m all for it. It’s freezing here and we have to keep the light on all the time.”
Weighing more than a ton, the mirror will be positioned on the Colma peak among pine trees at a height of 3,600ft. Computer-controlled motors will enable it to follow the sun, reflecting its rays onto the village square half a mile away and lighting up an area of 300 square yards for at least six hours a day.
The cost of £67,000 has been met by a private bank as well as the village and local council. The mirror’s maker has guaranteed it will stand up to the strongest winds and will last at least 30 years.
“I can already see my little old ladies coming out of the church after mass and just standing there, enjoying a bit of sun,” Midali said.