Memories of work and industry
Ancient factory buildings, hydroelectric power stations, paper mills, and wool mills have been sources of work and wealth for entire territories throughout the centuries. The heritage of industrial archaeology in Piedmont is vast with many places and itineraries to discover. From gold mines to wool and cotton mills, from the various mill systems that powered the factories, from the furnaces to the quarries.
In the province of Verbania, the Sentieri dei Minatori are trails leading to places of mining history linked to the exploitation of quartz veins with metallic minerals containing gold or silver. An itinerary near Macugnaga takes you to the remains of the mining village and a series of descriptive signs telling the stories of the area during the period when the mines were worked, up to 1961. In Pieve Vergonte a similar path leads to the Ecomuseum of the Val Toppa mines where, wearing a mantle and helmet, it is possible to visit the excavation tunnel. The many quarries in the area also tell a story: the green and white granite quarry in Mergozzo is the protagonist of the Ecomuseo del Granito, an open-air workshop where you can observe the work of today's quarrymen and the traces of the ancient processes.
Some of the largest steam machines in Europe used in cotton processing production are the highlight of the Museo dell'Energia in Varallo, inside the former Rotondi factory: interesting examples of history and industrialisation in Valsesia (VC).
In Galliate, in the Novara area, the Centrale Idroelettrica Orlandi, a completely recovered and restored hydroelectric power station is an interesting example of industrial archaeology dating back to 1903, which uses a 3-metre drop of the Langosco Canal and is, to this day, fully functional.
The Biella area has a rich heritage of industrial sites that recount twenty centuries of textile industry history: the Strada della Lana (wool road) that connects Biella with Borgosesia, with the former Trombetta wool mill that houses the Cittadellarte; the lanificio Maurizio Sella wool mill with its archival and iconographic heritage; Casa Zegna in Trivero and the Fabbrica della Ruota (wheel factory) in Pray, a 19th-century wool mill. Also worth mentioning is the Birrificio Menabrea, a gem of industrial archaeology still operational today, with its museum and library.
There are also numerous places in the province of Torino. A symbol of places that regenerate thanks to their strength and energy is the story of Olivetti in Ivrea, a 20th century industrial city and UNESCO site that preserves the complex of buildings designed by the most famous Italian architects and town planners of the 1900s In Turin you cannot miss the OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, the old train repair workshops reborn as creative ones thanks to the redevelopment and the Fiat Lingotto factory. Recommended outside the city, is the Leumann Village in Collegno, created for the employees of the cotton mill in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the L’Ecomuseo Sogno di luce di Alessandro Cruto in Alpignano, a journey through the history of the factory that began production of Cruto's patented carbon-filament electric lamps on an international scale in 1886. In Valle di Susa the Dinamitificio Nobel in Avigliana preserves the monumental remains of the world's most important explosives factory of the 1940s, while the Col forge in Condove and the ancient forge in Bruzolo are perfectly preserved examples of what was the craftsmanship of blacksmiths as far back as the Middle Ages. Among the ancient water mills that can be visited are the Mulino Varesio in Bussoleno, the Mulino della Bernardina in Giaveno and the one in Bobbio Pellice.
Also in Val Pellice, the Ecomuseo Feltrificio Crumière in Villar Pellice bears witness to the leading role of the textile industry in this area in past centuries.
The Ecomuseum of Mines and of Val Germanasca in Prali is particularly evocative, with the “Scopriminiera” tour enabling you to walk along the 1.5 km long underground loop adjacent to the talc mining sites.
In the province of Cuneo, the experience of the Filatoio di Caraglio, built between 1676 and 1678, is of note: a former silk mill and the oldest surviving complex in Europe with the characteristic of presenting the entire production chain of organzine, a highly prized silk yarn that was exported for weaving mainly in France, in a single factory. Since 2005 it has housed the Museo del Setificio Piemontese, where it is possible to see the imposing silk twisting machines used during the twisting phase to improve the quality of the thread in operation
Ozzano, in the province of Alessandria, on the other hand, preserves some of the most important architectural and technical testimonies linked to the history of the lime and cement industry, which was born here between the 19th and 20th centuries: along the Valle del Rio Fontanola are a number of factories with kilns, infrastructures and workers' houses. The Museum of Miners and Cement Mines of Monferrato Casalese can also be visited.