Diving at Lake Avigliana. Someone says “nothingness under water”. But it’s really just a slogan. The ecosystem is different but equally as rich: carp, catfish, perch, bleak. But also native shrimp and, if you’re lucky, the Louisiana shrimp. And then a plaque at the entrance to the Tommaso Vescera Diving Center. With the verses of Pablo Neruda.
Avigliana, the city of the two lakes
Avigliana, western province of Turin, entrance to the Val di Susa. It is the city of two lakes, the big one and the small one.
Many legends have been built around these two lakes. One of these concerns the life of a pilgrim. After a particularly fortunate long period, the villagers had become terribly selfish and cruel. Especially with people who didn’t live as comfortably as they do. So it was that one day, a pilgrim dressed in white arrived in the city. His face was emaciated and the signs of his fatigue were now quite evident. At the end of his strength, he knocked on the doors of the houses to ask for some food. Everyone refused to let him into their home. He went as far as the end of the village, where the house of an elderly woman was located. Only she – although she was poorer than the other inhabitants of the village – offered him food and a warm bed. The next day, when the woman woke up, she no longer saw the traveler. She was amazed, she went out and marveled at what she saw: the whole village had disappeared. Two beautiful lakes had taken its place. The “divine” wayfarer had rewarded the good heart of the woman by leaving only her house intact and giving her an enchanted landscape.
My first steps underwater
In these parts I have learned to go underwater. In a swimming pool, not in the lake. Because in those days, bathing was prohibited. Eddies were formed. Several people died, some children. I don’t know if it was due to recklessness or due to real natural events.
The fact is that the lake was not accessible. So I went to a local pool. I went to try to breathe underwater with cylinders. We were many, because during those days the world of diving was in full development. Each of us was saddled with a companion. I later found out they were instructors. The head watched over them. A sonorous voice that organized and dictated the times.
The following Sunday, the evening edition of the news told of an underwater incident in the waters of Portofino. I paid attention. The photo of the victim reminded me of something. Maybe he was part of the group of instructors, a few nights before, in that pool.
For years I continued to frequent that pool, which produced divers who dived into the sea because the lake was closed. The memory of that instructor who lost his life in the waters of Portofino hovered over them. The sonorous voice took him as an example. Of skill and competence. After all that time, I seemed to have known him too. Although I had only glimpsed him once and, almost certainly, I had not spoken to him.
Lake Avigliana more than twenty years later
Twenty years later, Lake Avigliana was reopened for bathing. And there, Ivo Bertolo, my first instructor, the one with the sonorous voice, opened a diving center. A space on the shores of Lago Grande for diving at Lake Avigliana.
Ivo is a volcano of ideas, strong in his life choices. His way of communicating conveys decision. He is stubborn; bordering on stubbornness. Often in his life he went against the grain.
In 2012 he overturned the perspective of Lake Avigliana with the construction of the via ferrata. He allows you to cross the lake starting from several points and connects the most interesting dive sites.
Divers can follow the via ferrata located one meter from the sediment. It uses an 8 mm nylon rope, hoisted with annular buoys. The ends of the routes are located at the old dynamite factory, the Chalet del lago, the Nautical Center and the diving center. They allow you to safely cross the lake from coast to coast following a cross path.
In total, depending on the chosen starting point, you can travel the 5 sections along the east-west route, for a total of 940 meters, or the 4 along the north-south axis, covering 1125 meters. However, there are numerous combinations that allow you to lengthen the track at will.
Since then, diving has been possible on Lake Avigliana.
My immersion in nothing
“Come and immerse yourself in nothing” !! In this way, Ivo has been trying for a long time to convince me to go and see him.
And when I got there, on a cold late winter morning, I was really ready to see nothing !!!
But, in reality, this is just one of the many slogans that Ivo coined during his long diving experience.
The depth of the lake instead teems with life, and with small craters with strange colors. In the sixties, all the houses overlooking the lake discharged into the water making it a landfill. Fortunately, this is no longer the case today. Cyanobacteria helped him defend himself. Their activity has given rise, on the bottom, to a series of holes that are very reminiscent of the lunar surface.
“Let’s go fly to the moon”. This is the other slogan invented by Ivo.
So, we got ready to enter the water. We covered ourselves, because in winter the water temperature drops abundantly below 10 degrees. And then off, to follow a peak that rises from the mud. The seabed sloped down, we began to descend. We arrived at the maximum depth, in the center of the lake: -27 meters.
Then we deviated, we chose a tourist route. A sunken boat gave me some interesting play of light. Then the throne of the cat, a stump of a tree on which a beautiful catfish usually rests.
And then on the slimy mud plays of greenish light. They are the famous cyanobacteria at work. Tireless carbon dioxide filters give these waters the right oxygen component.
In short, the ecosystem at Lake Avigliana is different but equally rich: you can see carp, catfish, perch and bleak. But also native shrimps, brown in color, 6/7 cm long. And, if you are lucky, the Louisiana shrimp, a brick red crustacean that can reach as much as 20/25 centimeters.
Lake Avigliana, a gym for divers
And at Lake Avigliana you will meet a lot of divers coming and going. Turin schools and clubs have chosen it as a gymnasium and course diving venue. Someone even prepared us for a depth record attempt. And, lately, a young but experienced biologist is monitoring and mapping this “lunar nothing”. These dives in Lake Avigliana.
And in the coming and going some old acquaintances. Divers who have remained inextricably linked to this old diving school that moved from the pool to the shores of Lago Grande di Avigliana.
Tommaso Vescera diving center
Where for a decade now there has been a Diving Center, managed by that sonorous voice of Ivo Bertolo and named after Tommaso Vescera. That instructor I didn’t have time to meet. But that, thanks to the stories of his friends, it is as if I had always known him.
A plaque at the entrance of the Tommaso Vescera Diving Center with the words of Pablo Neruda reads: “I want you to live while I, asleep, I wait for you. I want what I love to continue to be alive “
In memory of Tommaso Vescera.