Miniera Schilpario

Useful Information

Location: At the road from Schilpario to the Passo Vivione. Val di Scalve.
Open: JUL to AUG daily 9-12, 13:30-17:30.
Classification: ExplainIron Mine
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=60km, T=8°C, H=100%.
Guided tours: L=4km
Address: Miniera Schilpario, Località Fondi, 24020 Schilpario Bg. Anselmo Agoni, Cell: 347-8163286. Alessandro Capitanio, Tel: 0346-55367, Cell: 333-6207167.
Museo Minerali e Fossili, Hotel S. Marco, Località Pradella, 24020 Schilpario Bg, Tel: +39-0346-55024.
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.


1488 first mining law established by the Serenissima.
1600 gunpowder and blasting introduced.
1796 end of Venetian rule.
1936 mining operated by major steel companies, modernization.
1940s cable car built to transfer the ore to the town Gaffione Cividate Camuno.
1953 furnaces shut down.
1972 iron mines closed.
1997 Cooperative SKI MINE founded.
show mine opened.


The iron seams of Val di Scalve are sedimentary siderite (iron carbonate) deposits from the Triassic, about 220Ma ago. This was the era of huge transgressions of the Thetys, the ancient sea, and the deposition of kilometers of sedimentary rocks, mostly carbonates and marl. The layers called Servino are the result of a rather deep sea, with low limestone sedimentation and high amount of iron from the surrounding continents.

The layers were later folded and moved by the Alpine orogeny, so they are today folded and slanted. This makes mining more difficult, as seams may be almost vertical, or end abruptly at discordances just to reappear tens of meters away.


Mining in the Val di Scalve (Scalve valley) started very early. There is archaeologic evidence of mining since Roman times. But the veins were located above 2,000m asl, so mining was difficult and possible only during summer. The first miners followed the ore into the underground.

In the Middle Ages the valley belonged to la Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia (the Most Serene Republic of Venice). In 1488 La Serenissima established the first mining law, which was applied until 1796. Around 1600 they also introduced gunpowder and the blasting increased the productivity of the mines dramatically.

Before the use of gunpowder, the enormous amount of work necessary to build tunnels restricted their size. They were narrow and low, the entrances were called bocche (ports), the tunnels purtì. Purtì was also the name of the children between 11 and 15 years, which were used to transport ore from the mining area to the surface. They were smaller and so they could climb the narrow tunnels much faster. They counted their climbs by placing a small stone in a clay bowl inside the mine, every time they went up.

The mining was operated by local consortia with Medieval mining techniques until 1936. Then, in the dawn of World War II and under the fascist dictator Mussolini, the major steel companies Falck, Breda, and Ferromin took over the mining. They introduced modern machinery with compressed air, mine trains and mechanical shovels. This technical revolution intensified the mining production, the process of mining and enrichment of the ore. And the wages of the miners increased fundamentally. The next step in development was the smelting of the ore. In the 1940s a cable car was built to transfer the ore to the town Gaffione Cividate Camuno. Charcoal was used in the furnaces until spring 1953, then it was shut down and all ore was transported to the furnaces in the Po valley.

Iron mining ended in spring 1972, some mines were closed because the were exhausted, others because the mining was too work intensive and not not profitable any more. After the barite mines at Giovetto and the fluorite mines at Presolana closed, the mining in the Val di Scalve had ended forever.

In 1997 the Cooperative SKI MINE was founded to preserve the history and culture of mining for future generations. They developed two abandoned mines at Schilpario as show mines with underground tours. This location is called Parco Minerario Ing. Andrea Bonicelli (Mining Park engineer Andrea Bonicelli). The first mine is Miniere Stentada-Berbera (Stendada-Berbera Mine). The second mine, Miniere Gaffione-Spiazzo (Gaffione-Spiazzo Mine). Together about 4km of the 60km mine passages are developed for tourists. Not all of this is done by foot: there is a ride on a mine train included in the tour. The tour path exhibits a photographic documentation of the mining, objects and tools used in the mine, and machinery like mining trains. The guides are either former miners, or young people from the valley which were trained very well.

The nearby Museo Minerali e Fossili (Museum of Mineral and Fossils) is located in the Albergo San Marco in Frazione Pradella. The private collection of Pizio Antonio shows the wealth of local minerals. The mines have all kinds of iron minerals like limonite, hematite, pyrite, and siderite. Miniere Gaffione is rather famous for being the source of beautiful aragonite crystals which are still sold at mineral fairs.