Neviera (the ancient ice bunker)

A testimony of past times

Sunday, 10.6.2018, we have marked the path that leads to the Neviera in the forest. An expert for walls made from dry stone who is able and willing to repair the ice bunker was also present. Gert Heller, famous in the valley for his wonderful trekking guides was also there and will describe in his guides the way that leads from Villatalla to the Neviera. Meanwhile, a member of the LiguriaWow! group has filmed all the way through the forest.

The Neviera of Villatalla is probably the only surviving monument of its kind, that wasn’t restructured. It is a very valuable testimony to the life and commerce of past times. Vill-Arte is committed to preserving the good condition of the Neviera, sometimes also called the “Ghiacciaia” (Ice House). Some works are necessary because a tree that had grown on the structure has moved some stones. The tree has been carefully removed, but the internal structure has become unstable at the top of the construction.

The ice bunker dates from the seventeenth century! Externally, it resembles a “Casella”, a stone house in which once the shepherds and farmer were hiding from storm and rain. Under the earth opens up a whole world. The interior has the shape of a conical fountain and is a work of art entirely made of dry stone. A spiral staircase, made of stones on the inner walls, once allowed to go 4-5 meters in depth.

It was above all the noble and bourgeois families who drove in the 17th century a flourishing trade with this natural refrigerant.

In the summer, day laborers hired by the owner of the Neviera went into the woods and cut the snow into blocks, which had solidified into ice after months of staying in the cave. One block could weigh up to 80 kilos. The ice-blocks, protected with dry leaves and wrapped in cloth bags, were transported down the valley at night to minimize melting. Normally the transport was done with the help of mules.

You reach the ice bunker over the road that leads out at the top of the village and turns left into a road to the left of the cemetery. This path then leads through the forest for about half an hour. The trail is fully signposted, the trail markers are easily recognized by an ice crystal, so you can easily find the precious monument hidden in the huge ancient chestnut trees.

In the very idyllic place where the ice bunker is located, there is a hammock. An ideal place to picnic, relax and bath your feet in the nearby pond. The way back leads to the pilgrimage church “Madonna della Neve”, which is also beautiful and very valuable (note in particular the slate reliefs around the entrance gate). Attention: Do not enter the ice bunker! It is so deep that you can not come out again and, as already mentioned, there are some stones in its roof that could fall down.

We plan to have the Neviera repaired to save this precious testimony of a bygone era. Please contribute something to the necessary expenses. Sergio Poma, owner of the grocery store, gladly accepts the donation and passes it on to Vill-Arte.