VERMOGNO DI ZUBIENA, Italy — Italy may not be the first place that leaps to mind when you hear the words gold rush. But for thousands of years this neck of the northern Piedmont region, what some call Italy’s Klondike, has attracted prospectors seeking gold flowing down the Elvo River from deposits left eons ago by receding Alpine glaciers.
Gold rushes in the area have ebbed and flowed over the centuries, but they have seen a revival in recent, recession-hit years. Increasing numbers of people have been contacting local gold-seeking associations hoping to get rich quick.
Last weekend, panners from around the world even descended on a clearing for the Italian Goldpanning Championship. Under a hot sun, they stooped knee deep in mucky water, swishing sand and gravel around a flat grooved pan in search of gold specks.
“Some people have the idea that you go and find gold like an A.T.M. machine,” said Arturo Ramella, one of the founders of the 30-year-old Biella Goldpanning Association, which hosted the competition. But in Italy, most of the nuggets to be found are about the size of bread crumbs.
“We know you can’t live off of this so we try to discourage people,” Mr. Ramella said. “There are some retirees that go every day and if they find a flake or two it can add up, but it’s not going to substitute a salary, not in Italy.”
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