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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 11:56 GMT
Italians hope for sunshine mirror
By Daniel Sandford
BBC News, Viganella, Italy

Viganella
The sun does not shine on Viganella in the winter
When I first heard the story of the Italian Alpine village that wanted to install a giant mirror I thought it might be a joke.

But it took only one call to the Mayor of Viganella, Pierfranco Midali, to realise he was deadly serious. So I decided to go and investigate.

It seemed like half the village turned out to welcome me.

A gaggle of women paraded in the tiny main piazza in their traditional dress, carrying baskets of hand-crafted shoes made from cannabis plants.

The piazza is at the centre of the bizarre mirror scheme. The villagers call the square "il cuore di Viganella" - the heart of Viganella.

Viganella's problem is that it was built at the bottom of a very steep-sided Alpine valley, right up against the Swiss border.

The southern side of the valley is so sheer that on 11 November the sun disappears and does not reappear until 2 February.

Not one ray of sunlight falls on Viganella in the weeks in between.

"It's like Siberia," one woman said - and remember this is Italy.

Experiments

However, the south-facing slopes to the north do get sunshine just a few hundred metres above the village.

Pierfranco Midali's idea is to mount a giant mirror on the mountainside to reflect sunlight into the main piazza.

He is deadly serious, and he has even hired an architect to draw up the plans.

Giacomo Bonzani showed me the results of experiments he did in his back garden. He believes that a motorised mirror about five metres wide could track the sun, always reflecting it into the square.

"On a clear day this would produce five hours of sunlight in the piazza even in mid-December," he said. "In theory, it could be snowing in the village, but so long as the sun was out further up the valley, Viganella's piazza could have snow and sunshine at the same time."

Unfortunately, the villagers have hit a hitch. The regional government will not put up the 100,000 euros (67,542) they need to build their mirror. So for now it is just a dream, and this winter there will be no sunshine in Viganella.





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