Nothing makes me happier than getting the chance to wear a hard-hat, haha, it’s true! Lucky for me, I got plenty of opportunities when visiting the Trentino region in Northern Italy.
Together with a bunch of other travel bloggers, I visited a few mines in Trentino as part of the Traverse Blogging conference and I learned a lot about the geology in the area and history of mining in Italy.
If you’re interested, put on your own hard-hat and follow The Travel Tester for an underground tour of Trentino!
MINES IN TRENTINO ITALY
The autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige in Northern Italy is composed of two autonomous provinces: Alto Adige / Südtirol (South Tyrol, a mainly German-speaking area) and Trentino (Italian-speaking area).
This region is very rich in minerals and of course we wouldn’t be human, if we didn’t find a clever way to dig up, drill to or otherwise extract this natural beauty from the earth. Especially around the year 1200, Trento and the surrounding area became a significant mining center. With good reason: this was the place where you could find Silver!
Well, I am excited to learn more, so hard-hats and overalls on … and Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho! Let’s go!
MONTE CALISIO – TRENTO
The silver that I just mentioned was mined from the little mountain overlooking the city of Trento, called Monte Calisio – Khalisperg. Prince-Bishop Federico Wanga issued the first ever mining code of the alpine region, and since then, the mountain is also known as Monte Argentario, being, ‘The Mount of Silver’.
The mountain is located in the Argentario Ecomuseum area. In partnership with the local municipalities of Fornace, Civezzano and Albiano, they aim to recover, protect and highlight the plateau and have created a trail featuring history and nature through what used to be the most important mining area in Trentino. You can also do many guided trips with them, exactly what we did!
Today on Mount Calisio, the stone and porphyry stone (an igneous rock consisting of large-grained crystals) quarries are still operational, if you can believe it! Sure, there is no more mining for silver going on, due to the intense mining activity that took place since the Middle Ages (silver was needed for the Trento Prince-Bishop mint), but you can still see the large number of mining wells (cadini) and horizontal tunnels (canòpe) in the area. There are almost 150 accesses into them!
Today, we explored just one, a little one, but that didn’t make the experience any less exciting.
READ MORE: www.ecoargentario.it
VALLE DEI MÒCHENI
Located just 20 kilometers from the city of Trento, the Valley of the Mocheni (Valle dei Mòcheni) will surprise you with its rich flora and fauna and unique history.
The culture and traditions of the inhabitants in this valley actually come from Germany, since this community moved here in the Middle Ages. They were attracted by the region’s rich gold, silver, pyrite and quartz mines and can we really blame them?
To learn more about this interesting part of the Trentino history, I can highly recommend visit the Museum of the Valle dei Mòcheni (which is also called Bernstol, in the local German-like dialect).
READ MORE: www.valledeimocheni.it
GRUA VA HARDÖMBL – VAL DEL FERSINA
The entrance of the Grua va Hardömbl mine (also known as the mine of Erdemolo) lies at 1700 meters above sea level and a visit really is a great adventure! The mountain got excavated since the 1500s for pyrite, blende, chalcopyrite, galena and gold and as you can imagine, it played an important role in the area’s economy.
It’s located near the path leading to Lake Erdemolo and is about 5 kilometers from downtown Palù del Fersina. This valley was already known for its mines in prehistoric times, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that the mining activities reached their peak.
The miners (called canopi) and the owners were German, and the taxes to be paid were equally shared by the Bishops of Trento and the Counts of Tyrol. Once the veins were exhausted and more profitable mines were discovered, the activity in this mine soon ground to a halt.
The mine has been refurbished as part of the open-air museums project by the Mòcheno Cultural Institute and during your visit, you can see how the various extraction techniques evolved over time. It’s really quite impressive. The tunnels are dark and quite narrow, so you must be able to deal with that.
READ MORE: www.bersntol.it
CALCERANICA MINING PARK – VALSUGANA
In the town of Calceranica al Lago, you can find the Calceranica Mining Park. The pyrites mine of Calceranica that was renowned since Medieval times, had been closed for over forty years until it opened again in 2008 as a park for visitors.
In the 20th Century, up to 1964, it represented an important economical resource for the community and today, the Leyla tunnel features original equipment and materials from this period. This main tunnel is located in a vaster area, which was once used only for the processing of the extracted materials.
The whole network of tunnels is about 40 kilometers long and run all throughout the mountain, extending up to the inhabited areas of Bosentino and Vattaro. Most parts of these tunnels are not currently accessible, but through heavy restoration works, a few of the places have been brought back to their original splendor.
You can find a welcome and information point, a display and museum area in a restored building in the Campregher complex. Opening hours are from July to September from Thursday to Sunday. Guided visits start in the afternoon at 15:00, 15:45, 16:30 and 17.15. Tickets for the tour are €5,00 (45 min), there are reductions for old people and children.
READ MORE: www.visitvalsugana.it
DIGGING FOR GOLD AT MUSEO PIETRA VIVA
If you ask me what the most confusing, strange and yet fantastic museum I’ve ever been to is… the Museo Pietra Viva would definitely make my top 10 list. This museum is run by local twins Mario and Lino Pallaoro, who became famous for their passion for minerals, which they cultivated since they were kids. When they heard explosions in nearby quarries, and ran (secretly) to have a peek, they found some of the most stunning minerals of the area. After many years of research and study they have become great experts, so much so that they organize important mineralogical exhibitions in Italy and abroad.
The museum really is a journey to discover the world of minerals and everything that comes with that. From the kids-area outside, where you can pan for gold (clearly our group’s favourite part of the museum), to the massive reconstruction of the largest geode in the world inside the building, this place truly is a magical wonderland.
Consisting of four floors, the museum is located in a historical building and guided tours are available in Italian, English, German and Dutch.
READ MORE: www.museopietraviva.it
DARZO MINES – VALLE DEL CHIESE
In Valle del Chiese, you can find the Darzo Mines (Le Miniere di Darzo), one of the most important industrial archaeology sites in the valleys of Trentino, yet you’d miss it if you were in the area and didn’t look for it!
Here, barium sulphate (barite – a mineral that is very useful in the photographic industry, medicine and radiology) extraction started at the end of the 1800s and for over a century it shaped the economy and society of this corner of the valley.
These days, the mines are abandoned, but their history are being brought back to life through the ‘Mine Road’ that tells you more about both the positive as the negative sentiments of the generations that were impacted because of the mining in the area.
READ MORE: www.visitchiese.it
SOUTH TYROL MUSEUM OF MINING
The South Tyrol Museum of Mining (Museo Provinciale Miniere / Landesmuseum Bergbau) is one museum with four different structures and more than 100.000 discoveries in the South Tyrol region of Italy.
The locations are in: Monteneve (Schneeberg), Ridanna (Ridnaun), Cadipietra (Steinhaus) and Predoi (Prettau).
READ MORE: www.bergbaumuseum.it
AREA ARCHEOLOGICA ACQUA FREDDA
This important prehistoric archaeological site takes its name from the nearby source of water that flows from the slopes of the Lagorai mountain range and is located at the Passo del Redebus between the Piné plateau and the Valle dei Mòcheni.
With the naturally occurring water and mixed with fire, Bronze Age metallurgists (who studied the the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements) chose this place in the mountains and developed the technique to extract a precious metal from the rock at that time: copper.
Since copper was not present in the pure state in Trentino, it had to be obtained through a complex procedure with very refined techniques for the time.
These days, the site is one of the highest located archaeological open-air museums in Europe where you can find a battery of nine melting furnaces. Archaeologists also found some of the tools used to process the copper ore, such as the millstones that were used to reduce the mineral in sand or ‘flour’ and the end parts of the bellows used to maintain the temperature around 1200 degrees.
When we visited the site, we had some of the local historians and archaeologist explain this technique to us – and show it for real! During Summer, there are more demonstrations like this, showing you the secrets of metalworking through interactive workshops and theatrical performances.
There are also great informational signs if you want to learn more about the site on your visit.
READ MORE: www.visitpinecembra.it
I had such a great time in the Trentino region of Italy and especially loved learning something about the mining history of the area. I didn’t know there were so many locations you could actually go underground and see how people worked hundreds of years ago! It’s great to see that there is a lot of effort of keeping these sites maintained and your visit will ensure that many next generations will get to enjoy them as well! But then again, I would have visited this area for having the chance to wear a hard-hat alone, heehee!
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO ITALY!
I hope this article helped you deciding what to do in the Trentino region (for mine-lovers). Here is more information to help you plan your trip:
Time Zone in Italy? Italy is on Central European Summer Time, GMT+2
Currency in Italy? Euro (EUR). Check the latest exchange rate here.
Electrical Plugs in Italy? In Italy the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. The power plugs and sockets are either of type F (two round pins, thick or thin) and L (three round pins). The thick F-type pins won’t fit in the L-type pin, so always make sure to bring an [amazon_textlink asin=’B01FO4W5W2′ text=’adaptor’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thetraveltester-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a0d17456-3390-4b0d-8b5e-107d404a57f5′] that fits the 3-pin sockets as well!
Languages Spoken in Italy? Italian, but English is widely spoken, especially in the more tourist areas.
Best time to visit Italy? The best time to visit Italy is either in the spring (April-June) or fall (September and October). In these months, the weather is fair and moderate and there will be fewer tourists around. In Winter time, Trentino is also a perfect destination for Winter sports!
Insurance for Italy? Make sure to get travel insurance! We recommend checking out worldnomads.com
How to get to Italy? Check skyscanner.com for the best flights to Verona >> (this city is the closest to Trento)
How to get around Italy? From Verona, you can take the train to Trento. Make sure to grab a Trento Guest Card for further discounts.
Some great tours and activities in Trentino:
MAP OF ALL THE MINES IN TRENTINO ITALY
Wondering what else there is to see and do in the Trentino region of Northern Italy? Have a look:
Want to see more of our travel photos? Follow us on Instagram here
Want to see more of our travel videos? Subscribe on YouTube here
Want exclusive updates and stories from our world travels? Subscribe to our newsletter here
[amazon_link asins=’B00J03IWEY,0785902643,B008KP2GX6,1465467750,1786573512,1631218328′ template=’ProductGrid’ store=’thetraveltester-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f1d5e62c-52b1-4219-8ebe-53c08517ca72′]
DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Visit Trentino as part of the #Traverse19 Blogging Conference – All opinions, photos and videos in this article are 100% my own!