Viganella – The Italian Village that Built Its Own Sun

Viganella is a small village in Italy located right at the bottom of a deep valley, and surrounded by high mountains on all sides. This means that naturally, every year from mid-November to early February, the region has absolutely no sunlight. The return of the sun’s rays on the 2nd of February was celebrated with joy every single year for several centuries. That is, until December of 2006, when the problem was fixed forever.

Thanks to the brilliance of Giacomo Bonzani, an architect and sundial designer, there now resides on the slopes of a mountainside above Viganella, a giant mirror that reflects sunlight into the town square. A place that had not seen the sun’s rays during the winter since the beginning of time, was now suddenly bathed in its glorious light and warmth. The mirror is 40 square meters in size, 8 meters wide by 5 meters high and is located about 870 meters above the village. What’s more, it is actually controlled by a computer software that tracks the sun and tilts and turns the panels of the mirror so that the rays are always reflected downwards. It has actually become a tourist attraction of sorts, since its installation over 5 years ago.

According to Bonzani, who first came up with the idea of reflecting sunlight on to the square, no one believed it was possible at first. “But I was certain. I have faith in physics,” he says. The actual designing of the mirror was done by Emilio Barlocco, an engineer.  According to the Mayor of the village, Pierfranco Midali, it wasn’t easy getting the mirror ready. “We had to find the proper material, learn about the technology and especially find the money.” The entire project cost about 100,000 Euros. I think it’s truly wonderful when technology is used in such innovative ways to make people’s lives better.

Let’s just hope someone doesn’t decide to turn the device into a sun-death ray and fry the entire population…What? It could happen!




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