Around the world, some cities only receive sunlight at certain times of the year. These places are often areas near the Arctic or Antarctic regions of the globe. However, there is a small town in Italy with the same issue.
For six months out of the year, beginning in November, the town of Viganella receives no direct sunlight.
The town is located in the Antrona Valley, surrounded by the Italian Alps. When the earth’s axis tilts in the winter months, the mountain range blocks the sunlight from coming through when the earth’s axis tilts in the winter months. The residents are now left in darkness for almost a quarter of the year.
Back when the town was first established, over 800 years ago, the valley was an ideal spot. It was hard to access and could be easily defended in times of war. As the years have passed, the town’s tactical advantages have faded from importance.
During the winter, the approximately 200 residents gathered indoors waiting for the sun’s return. Many of these individuals reported feeling depressed and lonely during these times. Feelings of isolation and sadness are common during the winter, but for those without sunlight, it can be unbearable. Despite this challenge, the people of Viganella had a plan.
The citizens decided o build a giant mirror to redirect sunlight down onto Viganella during this time. They banded together and raised enough money to have a 132 square foot, or 40 meters, mirrored panel installed at the top of Mount Scagliola. The panel would be remotely controlled to follow the sun as the months progressed.
On December 17, 2006, the panel was completed and ready for use. Crowds gathered in the city center and waited in earnest as the mayor pressed a button and sunlight returned to the valley. Even though the panel is only able to illuminate a small portion of the town center, the people of Viganella immediately started reporting an increase in happiness and willingness to spend more time outdoors.
Viganella’s population remains small to this day, but with the installation of the panel, the citizens continue to thrive.