Historical sites

The Reno Valley and its Glaciers

Take a walk through a time when glaciers were formed

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The areas between Pracchia and Le Piastre in the Reno Valley are known for their glaciers. That is, they are places that contained and produced ice before the invention of the refrigerator during the 1920s. From the 18th century until the 1930s, Tuscany boasted approximately 10 glaciers. The majority were located along the Reno River on the Pistoiese Mountain. In fact, ice production was a very important industry in the Reno Valley thanks to its two particular characteristics: water and cold temperatures.

The ice came from the lakes that froze over in the winter, thanks to a mechanism that held the water in place until it froze in a solid state. The ice was then cracked with special picks and transported with wagons to the deposits. The transport was facilitated by the construction of the Via Regia during the second half of the 18th century, which connected Modena and Pistoia. The ice was kept in special stone containers where it maintained its solid state until the warmer months. Beginning in September of every year, the floor of the deposits were covered in dried leaves which acted as insulators. Though difficult, the process was a precious resource for the hospitals of the nearby cities and a special luxury for the area's courts.

Some of the structures still exist in the area between Pracchia and Le Piastre. In order to best understand the storage system, one can visit the Ghiacciaia della Madonnina, whose complete restoration allows visitors to observe the still-functioning harnesses, artificial pumps and lakes. The structure, whose name comes from a statue of Mary built on one side of the door, is cone-shaped, with a straw roof and 3m thick walls. Locals used to say that there were actually two rivers: one was the Reno and the second was the street, which was always wet from the melting ice.

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