FOSSANO, “Federico Sacco” Museum

The Museum

“Federico Sacco” Museum is located in the premises of the Cassa di Risparmio treasury along Via Roma, Fossano's main thoroughfare. The museum was designed to both stimulate geological tourism and enhance some of the geomorphological and landscape sites that best represent the history of the Alps; it was set up in 2016 and inaugurated in 2021 with funds from the “INTERREG V ALCOTRA” cross-border project called "L'Aventure géologique" between Italy and France. The project includes an app for mobile devices, a specific website with routes and games exploring the 22 geosites involved, and a spectacular video that accompanies visitors along the museum and makes them travel through time together with the two protagonists of the project: Martel and Sacco.

Eduard Alfred Martel and Federico Sacco

This project is represented by two personalities: the first one is Eduard Alfred Martel, a French speleologist, geographer and cartographer, who is considered the father of modern speleology. After studying law, he began his career as a speleologist in 1888. From 1888 to 1893, he explored and described more than 230 cavities and caves as well as 250 kilometres of galleries, of which he carried out precise surveys and plots. In 1905, he explored the Grand Canyon du Verdon, Europe's largest canyon, where a trail still bears his name.
Federico Sacco was born in Fossano in 1864 and since a very young age he developed a great passion in geology and nature sciences in general. He was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, the Accademia delle Scienze (Science Academy) in Turin, as well as professor of palaeontology, professor of geology at the Politecnico (Polytechnic University) in Turin and president of the Comitato Italiano di Glaciologia (Italian Committee of Glaciology). In addition to his work on the Tertiary fossils of Piedmont, Federico Sacco wrote several monographs on the glaciers of Mont Blanc: Monte Rosa, Matterhorn and Gran Paradiso. He released over 700 publications including monographic books, articles in newspapers and scientific journals as well as numerous sheets of the Geological Map of Italy. Here is how Federico Sacco used to define geology: "This study manages to combine the search for truth with the contemplation of beauty and usefulness, as an overall exercise in natural gymnastics." Sacco was always closely attached to his homeland, and created the Foundation that still exists and bears his name, and to which we owe the creation of the geological museum inspired by him.

“Federico Sacco” Hall

The first hall is entirely dedicated to Federico Sacco. There are many references to the town of Fossano from which Federico began to observe the world: "from my native town, which faces the Monviso, even as a young boy I used to admire the bold toothed pyramid from my door step...". On display there are some of the scientific volumes written by Federico Sacco and many fossils related to his research, including some from his personal collection while others from the University of Turin. These bivalve molluscs represent the typical fauna of the Pliocene sands around Fossano. Sacco was one of the authors of the monumental 30-volume work 'I Molluschi dei terreni terziarii del Piemonte e della Liguria' (The Molluscs of the Tertiary Soils of Piedmont and Liguria), which today is still a point of reference for field studies. His best-known works include 'Le Alpi' (The Alps), published by the Italian Touring Club in 1934, in which he illustrated an overview of the geological knowledge on the Alpine chain, which was the forerunner of the birth of Alpine tourism, and 'Il bacino terziario e quaternario del Piemonte: bibliografia, geoogia pura, paleontologia, geologia applicata' (The Tertiary and Quaternary Basin of Piedmont: Bibliography, Pure Geology, Palaeontology, Applied Geology), an encyclopaedic work published by Sacco when he was only 26 and which today welcomes visitors in the first showcase.

The Second Hall

The next room welcomes visitors with its spectacular time spiral depicting the succession of various geological eras. This section openly focuses on didactic devices, such as the interactive table that allows visitors to explore the characteristics of the different rocks using buckets containing some finds. Each fragment corresponds to numerous pieces of information that can be explored in depth according to the interests of each individual visitor, who can expand their gaze on the panoramas of the province of Cuneo or on the historical photographs of Federico Sacco and Édouard Alfred Martel. Other installations and panels show the formation of sedimentary and magmatic rocks through reconstructions made by holograms as well as the environment of the Cuneo caves and the complex history of the capture of the Tanaro river, while a large screen projects videos on geological themes. A special section is dedicated to the Fossil Forest of Fossano, which was discovered in August 2016 by Pier Luigi Beraudo from Fossano in the marls of the Stura river, downstream of the San Lazzaro bridge. This is a small fossil wood deposit with coniferous remains, which provides valuable information on environmental conditions around 4 million years ago. A small adjoining room is specially darkened to allow fluorescent minerals be properly displayed in a showcase: here visitors can switch on either visible or UV lights to observe how light emissions change.

Didactic Hall

The last room is called the didactic classroom as it is equipped with an interactive whiteboard, table and didactic trunk, with supports dedicated to the geological theme, which can be used for frontal lessons for both teachers and students wishing to learn more about this subject. There is a special teaching trunk containing: free-standing graphic banners presenting the panoramas of Italian and French geosites, 6 Didactic Units complete with plastic-coated graphic cards, rock specimens from the geosites in question and fossils from different regions of the world and multiple didactic and experimental activities designed for school children aged 8-12. All if this turns geological discovery into a real adventure.


Direction: Paolo Ansaldi
Post-Production: VDEA Produzioni
Translation: Europa 92
Copywrite and research: Laura Marino


Fondazione e Cassa di Risparmio di Fossano


Flavio Bauducco