The exploitation of geothermal energy in the "Colline Metallifere" area in the southwestern part of Tuscany, Italy, dates back to the first half of the 19th Century.
The zone was well known as an important mining region since the Etruscan and Roman ages. Yet it was only in 1827 that French engineer François de Larderel first conceived the idea of catching inside large brick domes the hot steam flows (the so-called "soffioni") bursting out of the numerous hotsprings and hot ponds ("lagoni") typical of the area.
After years of experiments, Larderel's idea eventually proved to be a success, so that in 1847 Leopoldo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, gave to the newly founded village near the plant's main location the name of Larderello, in honour of the inventor.
The industrial-grade exploitation of the "soffioni" phenomenon to produce electricity began later, in the early 20th Century, and still continues with significant productivity, after the reconstruction of the plants severely damaged during World War II.
These gigantic concrete towers, surrounded by the winding suspended metal pipes transporting the steam flows even for miles from the hotsprings, have become a characteristic landmark of this scarcely populated area of Tuscany.
In its beautiful and otherwise intact landscape the huge and rather enigmatic looking machines stand out as cyclopic traces of an intense but, in the last analysis, well balanced relationship between the human needs of energy and nature.
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