Without the water pipes climbing the steep slopes in the background this monumental wing-shaped building in the village of Malnisio could well be taken for a palace. In fact, it's a palace of hydroelectric power: for more than 80 years its powerful machines transformed the current of northern Italian river Cellina into electricity, thus illuminating the streets of Venice. The machines, four "Francis" turbines in combination with four generators, are the main attraction of this well restored museum of technology in the midst of the Venetian Prealps. Still being fully intact, these technical giants occupy the large hall of the building's main wing. The same magnificent machine shop sets the scene for cultural and scientific events on issues such as water, energy, and environment. Apart from that the museum hosts a branch of the Science Centre Immaginario Scientifico, originally based in Triest and opened in Malnisio in 2007. Various interactive installations allow visitors both young and old to try their hand at being researches, carrying out scientific and technical experiments, and reviving the historical power plant thanks to pioneering exhibition techniques.
Generating electrical energy from hydropower on a large scale: from today's perspective this does not sound spectacular. In 1897 the situation was completely different. In those days Italy had, apart from small generators for local use, only one hydroelectric power station. That said, the plans that Aristide Zenari of the Royal Corps of Engineers had in mind for the valley of the river Cellina were almost revolutionary.
His idea was to dam the river in Valcellina, and to construct a long channel with bridges and tunnels that would lead to a power station situated right behind the valley's outlet in Malnisio. To exploit the water of the Cellina torrent properly, Zenari would build two additional power plants further downstream. In March 1900 the works began. Over two thousand workers, including miners, masons, construction workers, carpenters, and porters, put the gigantic project into action. It was supervised by Aristide Zenari himself, being responsible for the hydraulic and civil part, while the engineer Antonio Pitter managed the electro-mechanical part. Of the latter the Malnisio power plant took its name when going into operation in 1905. Until 1919 the two other plants started working as well. Their electricity supplied not only Venice but also industrial settlements in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions.
The power plant "Antonio Pitter" in Malnisio continued to work without interruption until 1988. Since it was never modernised it preserved its original machinery: four hydraulic “Francis” turbines, built by Riva-Monneret, paired with 2,600 HP Tecnomasio Italiano Brown-Bovery generators. Following a first project of restoration, the industrial monument opened as a museum in 2006. One year later Immaginario Scientifico, a network of science centres, complemented the historical equipment by setting up interactive and experimental installations. Former employees of the power plant offer guided tours illustrating their daily routine during operation.
|Recommended duration of visit:||1,5 Hours|
|Duration of a guided Tour:||90 Minutes|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Infrastructure for Children:|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on Site:||yes|
March to May: Sunday 10am-6pm
June to September: Sunday 10am-8pm
weekdays and in the winter open upon reservatin for schools and group