Viganella, the Italian Village that Brought the Sun Down to the Valley

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Viganella is a small village in Italy located at the bottom of a deep valley some 130 km north of Milan. All seems fine in Viganella except that the village is located on the wrong side of a steep mountain. The valley is so deep that the surrounding mountains cast a long shadow over the entire village completely blocking the sun for three long months during the winter. On 11 November the sun disappears and does not reappear until 2 February. "It's like Siberia," one of the village's nearly 200 residents said.

For centuries, villagers have accepted their fate, until recently, when a local engineer and architect came up with a brilliant idea: use a mirror to reflect sunlight into the village.

In 2005, with the support of Pierfranco Midali, the mayor of Viganella, 100,000 Euros were raised and the construction of the mirror started. In November 2006, the 40 square meters mirror, weighting 1.1 tons, was installed on the opposite slope of the mountain at an altitude of 1,100 meters. Of course, the mirror is too small to light up the whole town so Viganella's main square in front of the church was chosen. The mirror is computer-operated that follows the sun's path throughout the day reflecting sunlight onto the village square half a mile away and lighting up an area of 300 square yards for at least six hours a day.

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After the mirror was installed, a positive change came over the mood and behaviour of the inhabitants. Pierfranco Midali, the mayor gives one example related to the Sunday Mass: in winter time, people usually go back home right after the end of it, as opposed to the summer. But when, thanks to the mirror, the sun shined on the church and the village square, people did stay outside to discuss with each other.

Viganella’s mirror has drawn attention of millions of people around the world since it was installed six years ago.

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Photo credit

Sources: BBC, Wikipedia, Christophe Cauvy

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