Museo della Miniera e del Territorio

Lignite Mines Documentation Centre


Useful Information

Location: Vecchio Paese di Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni, Cavriglia(AR).
A1 Autostrada del Sole, exit Casello del Valdarno, turn right on SP11, turn right across bridge, turn right on SP69. At San Giovanni Valdarno turn left on SP12 Cavriglia, Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni. In town center turn right, signposted.
(43.546036, 11.454152)
Open: All year Tue-Fri 10-13, Sat, Sun, Hol 10-13, 15-18.
Closed on 01-JAN, 15-AUG, 04-NOV, 25-DEC, 26-DEC, Easter Sunday.
[2022]
Fee: Adults EUR 5, Children (0-12) EUR 3, Seniors (65+) EUR 3, Family (2+2) EUR 13.
Groups (10+): Adults EUR 3.
[2022]
Classification: MineCoal Mine lignite
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: alowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:
Address: Museo della Miniera e del Territorio (MINE), Vecchio Paese di Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni, Cavriglia(AR), Tel: +39-05539-85046. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1500s existence of lignite mentioned.
18th century lignite studied by Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti (*1713-✝1783).
1809 during the French occupation Napoleon Bonaparte founded the Municipality of Cavriglia.
1814 With the fall of Napoleon the Grand Duke Ferdinando III returned to reign in Tuscany.
1896 mine crisis increased the social unease of the workers and resulted in the first major strike.
1907 first power plant erected.
1970s collection started by the school pupils and teachers of the elementary school.
1970s lignite exhausted and mines closed.
1980s exhibition given to the municipality and Centro di Documentazione delle Miniere di Lignite (Lignite Mines Documentation Centre) opened.
2005 begin of renovation for new museum.
2012 Museo della Miniera e del Territorio (MINE, Museum of the Mine and the Territory) opened to the public.

Geology

The Castelnuovo basin contains a lignitiferous bank. This is rather young coal which was formed as a swamp. Due to downlift the area was covered by a lake, which then became a swamp. The thick layer of peat was covered by sediment, later another swamp formed. This happened several times. The layers of rocks were not very thick, the pressure and temperature were quite low, and the deposit is rather young. As a result the process of coalification is just in the beginning the lignite is more like peat than coal, considered a low quality coal. Dried in the air, it contains about 25% of humidity and has a calorific value of about 3500 calories. It can only be used for heating and the operation of power plants, where the lignite is burned to produce electricity.

Description

The Museo della Miniera e del Territorio (MINE, Museum of the Mine and the Territory) is a rather young museum, it was opened to the public in 2012. It is a mining museum without a mine, because this mine is completely gone, the only remains are two lakes and the cooling towers of the power plant. There are not even some surface buildings or a headframe left. The main physical exhibit from the mine is a huge block of lignite, the last remains of the lignite deposit as it is exhausted. As a result the museum has historic documents, photographs, surveys and even recordings of locals telling about the mine. So it is now a sort of multimedia museum with interactive displays to explore. On the other hand it is almost unusable for foreigners, as it is all in Italian.

The museum shows the history of the mines of Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni. Lignite or brown coal is a low quality coal which contains a lot of water, sulfur, and other organic chemical compounds. It was used primarily for heating, later for making electricity. The exhibits include tools and materials needed for the excavation of lignite and a mineral collection. There is a library, an archive and a photo library.

The Municipality of Cavriglia was founded in 1809 on an inquiry by Napoleon, for administrative purposes. The industrialization of the Valdarno started in the 1870s. The steel plant of San Giovanni Valdarno, was founded at that time, at the same time the mine was expanded. This is a coincidence and not connected, the lignite was not suitable for heating a furnace. But the 19th century was the time of the industrial revolution. Unfortunately the lignite was not good for powering steam locomotives or blast furnaces. It was used in briquettes factories to make briquettes people used for heating. This changed in 1907 when the first power plant was built.

The late 19th and early 20th century are characterized by crisis and various huge strikes. But after the use of lignite for producing electricity was started, the mines flourished. With World War I the situation worsened again. Lignite was now in need for the war and the situation of the miners was militarized, they were sent into the mine like soldiers were sent into the fight. Extremely harsh work discipline and the absence of any right to dissent, on pain of dismissal and forced dispatch to the trenches. There were concentration camps for prisoners of wars and refugees, and many were forced to work in the mines. If you guessed, slave labor was not invented by the German Nazis during World War II, it was the basis of many wars, before and after. But after the war the union became strong and after various strikes they were able to establish much better working conditions. A clash with the fascists two years later ended in a bloodshed.

At the beginning of World War II production increased again and similar conditions as in the first were established. This ended when the front went across the area and the mine was heavily damaged and many people killed during the fights. After World War II there were periods of crisis, and also the heydays of the mine. The traditional underground mining was long discontinued, the lignite was mined with huge machines in enormous open casts. Finally, the deposit was exhausted, and after mining the less valuable lignite at the fringes the mining finally came to an end in the 1970s.

The museum is located in the old town of Castelnuovo, about a dozen houses sitting on a low hill below the new village Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni. It was abandoned due to subsidence caused by the mining, and so all houses are ruins. For the museum the church and the town hall in the center, and one of the surrounding residential houses were renovated. We are not sure if the subsidence stopped or if they actually think that subsidence makes a difference between public buildings and private houses.

But there are several such inconsistencies with this museum. One of them is a big part of the exhibition dedicated to 74 locals which were killed by Germans in 1944, during World War II. Now there are thousands of those memorials all over Europe, but this museum was actually built in 2012, after anybody who knew one of the murdered was gone or over 90. That's a very, very long time to hold a grudge. And by the way, the Italians as a country with their Duce were also Fascists, they did the same, they were among the bullies not the victims. It would probably be worth a psychological study, why they still have the need to actively blame the Germans, who are obviously unpopular but necessary guests since the 1960s as they are responsible for 95% of the tourist income, on which the country and especially the rural Toscana depend so much. Perhaps to distract from their own role in a devastating war based on an inhuman worldview that the Italian people helped to create and support. And like in Germany there were many victims and many people which did not support the terror. But the exhibition concentrates only on the witnesses of this event.

The museum started as an exhibition in the elementary school of Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni. The remains of the mining era were collected by the teachers and the pupils in the 1970s. At this time the mine was at its heyday, a huge open pit which provided lignite for a power plant. The school pupils were allowed to enter the quarries of the mine and collect minerals, fossil leaves, and clay, which were then exhibited at the museum. Rambaldo Macucci and the geologists of the mine helped with the exhibition. Rambaldo Macucci was a local artist, the last person which lived in the old town after the inhabitants were evicted in the 1970s, and he had his own museum in a house on Via di Camonti.

When the elementary school was restructured, part of the exhibition was given to the municipality and became the Centro di Documentazione delle Miniere di Lignite (Lignite Mines Documentation Centre). In short, it was simply named Museo delle Miniere (Mine Museum), which is not helpful as there are dozens of mining museums. It was located in a communal building at via Papa Giovanni XXIII in Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni. But as it was simply a small mining museum, there were not many visitors, the museum opened only two days per week for three hours, and it was free. The new museum is advertised, there are brown signs along the roads, and with daily opening, it is much easier for people to visit. Special tours and workshops for the school pupils are still an important part of the work of the museum. They even tried to reconstruct a part of the original school museum.