Leonardo da Vinci

Between science and art

The Adda River has a special link with the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Although his interest in the river seems mainly scientific, many academics believe that the river and some of its environs have been featured in the backgrounds of his paintings, even some of his most famous.

Certainly, Leonardo developed many projects regarding the river and its navigability and he drew it and its surrounding territory in many of his sketches.

Villa Melzi d’Eril - Vaprio d'Adda

The villa stands overlooking the garden which, in large terraces, slopes down towards the Naviglio Martesana and the river. Leonardo Da Vinci was a guest of the Melzi family on several occasions.

During these stays, he conceived some drawings related to problems of navigability and to hydraulic mechanisms of various kinds.

Naviglio of Paderno - Paderno d'Adda

Leonardo also worked on the Naviglio of Paderno. He created a series of drawings including a view of the middle valley of the river where he found a way to connect the river to the Paderno’s narrows.

Francesco I Sforza began the construction work in 1516, but Naviglio was only completed nearly three centuries later, under Maria Theresa of Austria, and inaugurated in 1777.

Moreover, in correspondence of the bend in the river near Trezzo sull’Adda, Leonardo drew another canal that branches off to the Milanese plain to irrigate a large area just north of Naviglio Martesana.

Leonardo’s ferry - Imbersago

Named as such because it is an exact replica of a ferry depicted in one of Leonardo’s drawings dating back to 1513.

As a guest in the home of Francesco Melzi, in Vaprio d’Adda, Leonardo drew the ferry called “de la canonica”, crossing from Imbersago to Villa d’Adda. He portrayed it with the cable that extends between the two banks of the river, carrying a load of cattle.

This drawing comes to life between Villa d’Adda and Imbersago. The crossing takes only five minutes, but it is worth experiencing the thrill of crossing on the apparatus envisioned by Leonardo.