Milan: discover the Navigli of Leonardo

Posted By: niccolo on July, 16 2007 in About Italy, Art, History, Itineraries, Milan, Transportations
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I Navigli di Leonardo da Vinci a MilanoThanks to About Milan and in the last few days we rediscovered the beauty and the historical and scientific importance of the Navigli of Milan. To our astonishment we have discovered that there is a company that organizes, as a result of the last year’s success, excursions on the Navigli of Leonardo during the whole summer.

In fact, until 30th September it is possible to book an excursion on the Navigli on three different routes:

  • The Valley Line: from Alzaia Naviglio Grande 4 to dam “Conchetta”, passing along Darsena of Milan;
  • The line Delizie: along the route Robecco sul Naviglio – Castelletto di Cuggiono;
  • The line Parco Sud that unravels along the path that connects Milan with Gaggiano.

It is very unusual that the term “Navigli”, in Milan, is identified with only the two opened routes of Navigio Grande and Naviglio Pavese and in more general sense the area between the two navigable canals characterized by the presence of numerous nightspots.

In fact, many people don’t know, and here we come to the usual fact, that the Navigli were used not only to transport different kinds of merchandise to Milan, but also to transport the marble of Candoglia used in the construction of Milan’s Cathedral, and in more recent times, to transport the rolls of paper used by the typewriters of Corriere della Sera.

Un particolare dei Navigli milanesiWhile reading the very interesting pages on About Milan dedicated to the Navigli of Leonardo you can discover that in the past (1475) Milan had the primacy that no other city could reach and that is to have the largest net of navigable canals. In only 35 years, from 1439 to 1475, some 90 km of canals were made navigable on the Milan territory thanks to the existence of 25 river valleys.

Since then, The Navigli were characterized by a continuous development mostly because of the construction of new canals and dams. Thanks to these enormous and never-ending works of engineering, to which even Leonardo da Vinci contributed, the Navigli were becoming one of the most important means of transport for Milan.

Have a look to the photogallery about the Navigli on our webspace on Flickr.
Unfortunately, in the second half of the 19th century the river transport decayed as a result of a slowness of journey (only 3Km/h) and the competition from the railways and tramcars that supplanted the internal and external navigation in the city. It was assumed that a coverage of the canals would follow but it actually begun only in 1929.

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