W hat do you do if your village is nestled in a valley so steep it hardly gets any sunshine in the winter?
Mirror offers Italy 'dark town' a ray of sunshine
You put a mirror on the mountain to reflect the sun's rays into your main square, says the mayor of Viganella, who has just presented the project to Italy's Piedmont region for approval.
"We are very hopeful that we'll get the go-ahead. The next problem will be to find the money," said the mayor Pierfranco Midali, a 46-year-old train driver.
The village of Viganella, with population of only 70, lies in the belly of a valley so sheer that each year, from November 11 to February 2, its inhabitants are deprived of the sunlight that normally drenches much of Italy.
Helped by an architect friend, Midali has drawn up a plan to install a 5-metre (16-foot) high, 8-metre (26-foot) wide mirror on the mountainside that would track the sun's movement and reflect its rays into Viganella's historic piazza.
The mirror, he says, would guarantee at least six hours of sunlight per day during the "dark" months. The estimated cost of the project is around 100,000 euros ($123,000).
"Right now the square is deserted. We want to create an oasis of sunshine in the darkness of winter. It would help stimulate tourism in our valley, which is poor," he said.
"It would also be therapeutic -- there are several studies showing that the lack of sunlight leads to depression," he said.
After initial scepticism, Viganella's residents are rallying behind the idea. "At the beginning people had doubts. But now everybody is enthusiastic," said Midali.
Midali has been contacted by local authorities with similar problems in Canada, the United States and France."
Mayors from other "dark towns" have also been in touch. It's about time we also got a bit of sun," said Alberto Tosa, mayor of Saviore dell'Adamello in the Lombardy region.
Others have come up with a more drastic solution. In the Brembana valley, the mayor of Sedrina wants to "saw off" the top of the surrounding hill, cutting it by about 25 metres, so that his small town can also have its place in the sun.