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You usually associate dullness and greyness of buildings to an industrial area, but if you climb by chance or for pleasure up to Codogna (hamlet of Grandola e Uniti) and you reach the creek Sanagra in a fascinating landscape you’ll discover a small and unexpected settlement of industrial archeology with an old nail factory (now recovered as a dining and living space) and of an ancient furnace for the production of bricks with mallet and a water wheel (once mules, horses, donkeys turned it…) recently brought back to its use for educational purposes thanks to the sensitivity of the municipality of Grandola.
In the furnace building, which is now undergoing renovation, the kiln room walls have still the colour of the fire used to dry bricks (fifteen thousand a time!) making you think to Dante’s Inferno atmosphere. A cross is carved on one of the walls as a request of divine assistance. Tonino Guerra, who is not from the area, has always sung humility, hard work and poverty in his poetry. His are the unforgettable verses: “my grandfather made bricks, my dad made bricks, I make bricks too, thousand ten thousand the mountains of bricks, but a house I have not”.
The furnace is a branch of the ethnographical and natural history museum of Val Sanagra. Founded in 1986 by the Municipality of Grandola, it is not your typical museum but the creator conceived it as “a museum which leads the visitor to the park and on the other hand the park which leads the visitor to the museum”. The whole Val Sanagra area is a sort of “live open air museum” showing its own history and its own traditions but at the same time a physical place used as a museum. Villa Camozzi (seat of the town hall) sums up and embodies in its halls the “Piccolo mondo antico” (the Little World of the Past: title of a novel by A. Fogazzaro) of the valley aspects.
In the museum the collections are so complete and accurate that walking through the halls you get the feeling of visiting several places together. As an example the room dedicated to flora and fauna shows all species of animals (like birds of every kind or squirrels and wolves …) and mushrooms that can be found by visiting the valley. It is amazing to think of so much richness and variety of wildlife in this area; this means that the territory has been preserved and respected by the inhabitants for centuries.
Fascinating is also the hall with tools from the rural and mountain world and a picturesque still working clock which belonged to a clock tower; the hall containing the musical instruments used by the village band is pompously called “Music Hall”. Nature, history and tradition but also paleontology: the museum hosts an amazing collection of fossils of plants and animals found in coal seams (exploited to extract coal in the past) in the area of Val Gariasca in Val Sanagra.
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