MILAN - The meeting between land and water
As Fernand Braudel observed, the wealth and power of cities was determined by their location either on the sea or because they were connected by a system of river navigation and transportation. So Rome has the Tiber, Florence the Arno, Paris the Seine, London the Thames, Calcutta the Ganges, and New York the Hudson. Milan, however, does not need one: it has its feet in the water, and for centuries it has grown and developed in harmony with this element: rivers, springs, and navigable canals strongly marked its territory and constituted its wealth.
At the end of the 1200s, Bonvesin de la Riva wrote “a surprisingly beautiful and wide moat surrounds this city on all sides and contains not a swamp or a stagnant pond, but the live water of springs, populated with fish and shrimp” enchantingly describing a grand “City of waters”.
Not to mention that the city is located in a privileged position, crossed by the rivers Olona, Seveso and Lambro, surrounded by the lakes of Como, Maggiore, and Garda, and by the rivers Ticino and Adda. Stendhal, a great admirer of Milan in the early 19th century, wrote “the country that one crosses from Milan to Pavia is the richest in Europe. Everywhere one can see the canals of running water that give it fertility: one follows the navigable canal by which one can travel by boat from Milan to Venice or to America.”
The dense network of navigli, to which Leonardo da Vinci‘s genius contributed, made possible the wonderful masterpiece that is the Milan Cathedral (Duomo), creating a unique and fascinating urban environment.
Today, the relationship between Milan and water continues to be important, with many Milanese still spending their leisure time on their boats. Furthermore, the city hosts the largest number of shipowners in Italy, confirming how much the city is linked to the world of navigation.