THE LITTLE MINE OF PORTO AZZURRO: A COMPULSORY DESTINATION FOR MINERAL ENTHUSIASTS.
In our article L’ISOLA D’ELBA: UN PARADISO (QUASI) PERDUTO PER GLI APPASSIONATI DI MINERALI. we talked about the ceased mineral activity which beginning in the Etruscan Era had made the Island of Elba the main source of supply of iron for Italy.
However most of the galleries (with the exception of a part of the mine of Capo Calamita) today are not accessible, also because the entrances have been buried of they made them collapse to avoid the risk of incautious mineral hunters going inside them and putting themselves in danger.
To conserve the memory of what was once the main activity of the island, a passionate ex miner, Emilio Giacomelli, who died some years ago, dedicated decades of his life to the creation of a business, The Little Mine, which aside from one of the biggest mineral shops present in Italy, includes a faithful reconstruction of an ideal mine, which can be visited aboard a little train pulled by a tractor that was once used in a real mine. The reconstruction of the various parts of the mines is truly incredible in it likeness: right from the start the sensation of being in a fake place disappears, leaving place to the impression of being inside a real mine, where the different machinery used to extract minerals can be seen, the hoppers to load the wagons and the placement of the electronically operated mines to blast out the tunnels. Inside this little masterpiece various conditions of composition have been reproduced. In making this virtual mine they have also imagined the casual finding of a karst cave, with stalactites (dripping!), stalagmites and little underground lakes, so true in likeness that it is able to fool even those who know caves very well.
The tours, lasting about twenty minutes, can be guided in various languages by loudspeaker through an audio device mounted onto the tractor.
Outside a museum can be visited which, apart from the display of numerous extraordinary beautiful examples of minerals extracted from the mines of Elba when they were still functioning, also includes a documentary about
the life of the miners and the methods of fusion used in the Etruscan Era.
In the shop a wide assortment of minerals from all over the world is available as well as gift articles and costume jewellery made with polished stones. Next to the shop a workshop can be visited where ornamental stones are hand crafted.
Everything is completed by a snack bar where it is possible to taste local products and buy the famous wines of Elba, above all the aleatico wine.
Currently the business is run in an excellent manner by the wife and daughters of Emilio Giacomelli.
The Little Mine is open every day from the beginning of March to the end of November.