Are you visiting Torino area and apart from all the good and interesting wonders you find downtown you want to have a getaway to the mountains?
Then think about Valle Germanasca, a nice place to enjoy the fresh air and the nature while visiting an interesting location.
You destination can be Miniera Paola in Prali, an old talc mine transformed in a museum where to learn about the miners of the valley and their lives.
ScopriMiniera (literally MineDiscovery) is an eco-friendly museum, which from some years now has offered a picture of life and work in Val Chisone and Val Germanasca up until the first half of the last century.
Still today the extraction of talc in Val Chisone is an important activity, but today’s miners have equipment and apparatus that make their work much easier.
We went to visit Scopriminiera last summer, in a nice and warm day. As we waited for the tour to begin we visited the museum set up outside of the mine. Here, in addition to seeing the various pieces of rock from which the talc is extracted, you can also see the clothing worn by the miners of long ago, the equipment commonly used and a brief film about a typical day in the mine.
After having donned our helmets, sweaters and windbreakers [I would suggest to wear long pants even in the summer: it is really cold inside!] we entered the mountainside.
As soon as we entered, our guide showed us a map of the various talc mines in the area, all connected to each others by vertical passages [stairs or elevators]. We got to see one of the elevators and how it is operated; we went to the top of the shaft [down which the cage goes] and it was really impressive: you can’t see the bottom!!
When the first part of the tour was finished, we hopped onboard a train of wagons used long ago for carrying rocks [now only used for visitors transportation].
The tunnel was dark and narrow, and the motor rather noisy… except for a few moments when the flash of the cameras lit up our passage, we moved along in the dark, shielding ourselves from the cold air lashing at our faces.
At the end of the ride we arrived in an area where the work zones had been reconstructed; our guide led the way with a carbide lamp: as soon as it was lit, we all took a step back thinking that perhaps someone had had a heavy meal, since the smell of carbide was so similar to garlic!
The guide then showed us exactly how the lamps work: the water dips onto the clacium carbide and the chemical reaction produces acetylene, which burs, creating a rather strong flame.
We then visited a tunnel where we saw how the miners removed the rubble after the explosions that permitted the opening of a passage and how these passages were reinforced with wooden boards and planks.
At a certain point an explosion attracted our attention and we all turned, alarmed, toward the direction of the noise, almost ready to run; but there was nothing to be afraid of: this was a reconstruction of the sounds and voices of the miners, as if they were working in a tunnel near us. It was even possible to role play! In fact we saw an “old style” pneumatic drill and the guide invited one of us to try it; you can imagine the deafening sound!
A couple of tips:
– to enter the mines would it better to book it in advance through the Scopriminiera website in order to avoid disappointment of not having free places left.
– even in full summer, bring some warm clothes, it’s really chilly inside!