By now the summer is coming, the sun is becoming more and more present in our days, the heat begins to be felt, and our desire to get out of the winter lethargy is getting stronger. In fact, as soon as the beautiful summer or spring days arrive, our nature as hikers comes out, and immediately we take the unstoppable desire to put a backpack on our shoulders, with a pair of trekking shoes on our feet and go to discover the beautiful places that our territory is able to offer us. We are fortunate to live in a country immersed in wonders, many of which, unfortunately, are known to few and not valued as they should be. The outings, or if you prefer, the trekking outings, are a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with nature, to discover hidden wonders, of which perhaps we had never heard of before, and it is certainly a great way to keep us in shape and it is a formidable possibility for our children to make new adventures and learn new things. As mentioned a little while ago, in our country there are innumerable places or sites immersed in nature, of a beauty and a curiosity like few, but unfortunately not everyone is aware of it. Certainly, the ichthyol mines, near Giffoni Valle Piana, an Italian municipality of 11,000 souls, also belong to these wonderful places. Have you ever heard of it? Yet it is a place as beautiful as it is curious, perfect for a trip out of town in the name of fun in nature, also in the company of your children, and why not your four-legged friends. It is one of those places that you do not expect, and that will amaze you only by seeing it for its natural beauty, but also by industrial beauty, or rather industrial archeology. Let’s see what the ichthyol mines in Giffoni are, and all the curiosities and information if you decide to jump into this adventure.
A bit of curiosity and history about the ichthyol mines in Giffoni Valle Piana
Giffoni Valle Piana, as mentioned before, is a small Italian town of just 11,000 inhabitants, in the province of Salerno, in Campania. This small town has become famous in recent years thanks to the famous Giffoni Film Festival for children, which takes place there every year and hosts thousands of tourists.
But Giffoni Valle Piana, also in the past, around the early 1950s, had great national relevance as it was a large production site for ichthyol, which was extracted from the mines of the same name. You are wondering what ichthyol is. Ichthyol is nothing more than an ointment, or rather, an ointment, that is, a substance that can be spread on the skin with the aim of treating certain types of skin lesions. This precious ichthyol-based ointment in fact has been for many years a medical device of primary importance, especially in the first half of the twentieth century. Its diffusion in the past was given by the fact that at the time the quantity of antibiotics we have now did not yet exist, so the wounds, especially those reported during the war, were treatable with this substance which was spread directly on the lesion. The discovery of this precious substance dates back to the second half of the 1800s, precisely in 1858, when the naturalist Oronzo Gabriele Costa discovered these deposits. In fact, Oronzo Gabriele Costa, thanks to his studies, discovered that the sedimentary rocks of Monte Pettine had the characteristic of preserving the fossil residues of fish and reptiles that lived millions of years before, when these rocks were still under the ocean. The naturalist Costa, once found this site, brought it to the attention of the scientific and naturalist community of the time who, seeing the enormous opportunity, had a mine built there for the extraction of ichthyol, which can still be seen today the default path. For many years in that area there was work totally focused on the search for ichthyol, which involved the whole community, including women and children who dug every day to find some of this mineral, which was then brought, via a cableway, or even by hand, down to the valley, where all the distillation plants were located. In fact, if you decide to venture into this wonderful place, you will be able to see perfectly the ovens in which the ichthyol extracted from the mine was distilled, which are still completely intact today. For many years the production of this substance was very intense, but then stopped completely, with the consequent closure of the entire Giffoni Valle Piana plant. Stopping ichthyol production is simply due to the entry into the market of a new substance, which we all use daily and which everyone has at home, mercurochrome.
How do you get to the ichthyol mines in Giffoni Valle Piana?
Have you decided to make a little trip to this wonderful place and spend a day in the name of tranquility and immersed in nature? Well, getting to the ichthyol mines is pretty quick and easy. The route in fact starts from the municipality of Giffoni Valle Piana, which is easily accessible via the Naples-Reggio Calabria motorway, where you will have to take the Battipaglia exit and then get to Giffoni. Once you arrive in Giffoni Valle Piana you must take the provincial road 25, the one that leads from Giffoni to Serino, towards the Terminio. About 12 km from the town of Giffoni, along this road, right on the right you will find the entrance to the route, also indicated by signs, which leads to the ichthyol mines. The route begins with the crossing of a small wooden bridge over a stream, which once crossed will put you in the real path. You will immediately be welcomed by the beautiful tower of the old furnace, in which the ichthyol ore was distilled, which contained tar residues, deriving from fossilized fish and reptiles millions of years before.
Difficulty of the route and precautions to be taken
The path that leads to the ichthyol mines of Giffoni Vallepiana is of low difficulty and can be faced by everyone, young and old, without any particular precautions. The path is flat with some slightly uphill pieces, and there is no need for any particular equipment or clothing, simple hiking or gym shoes may suffice. The path has a length of 10 km in total, 5 km on the outward and 5 km on the return, with a journey time of about 3 hours in total.