What do you do when you’re town is located in such a steep-sided valley that the sun disappears for more than 80 days each winter? This is exactly the problem that has plagued Viganella, a small town in the Alps long Italy’s northern border, for nearly 800 years!
Their solution? Put a large mirror on an adjacent mountain top to reflect sunlight into the town square.
Viganella was founded in 1217 in the narrow Antrona Valley of northern Italy. The valley is so narrow that each year, the sun disappears behind the 2000 foot mountain on the south side of town on November 11th, leaving the town in darkness until it reappears on February 2nd. No sunlight falls on the town for 83 days.
When the sundial was commissioned for the parish church, the section for November 11th through February 2nd was left unfinished — there is no light then.
However, several hundred feet up, the southern slopes of the mountain to the north does get sunlight.
The mayor, Pierfranco Midali, worked with architect Giacomo Bonzani, to come up with a plan to bring the sun to Viganella: place a mirror high up on the northern slope to reflect sunlight down onto the town.
The mirror would be about 5 meters (16 feet) in diameter and have a computer to track the sun and reflect sunlight onto the village square.
Although many village residents were doubtful of Midali’s plan, he has spent the last seven years working tirelessly to raise the £67,500 ($133,000 USD) needed to build the mirror.
Early this November, all of Midali’s hard work finally paid off. A mirror 8 meters (26 feet) wide and 5 meters tall was installed along with an “altazimuth” computer to control it, reflecting sunlight onto the village square a half mile away and lighting up an area of 1800 square feet for about 6 hours a day.
â€œI can already see my little old ladies coming out of the church after mass and just standing there, enjoying a bit of sun,â€ Midali said.