Introduction

My independent research demonstrates many ties between Leonardo Da Vinci and the Milanese Canals.

In order to understand these ties, the extraordinary story of the Milanese canals must be understood. Their existence preceded Roman times. Milan's road and sewer system preserve the pattern of the first canals.

Leonardo entered the scene relatively late in the drama, perhaps 1500 years after the canals began evolving. During his tenure as Ducal Engineer, the Milanese canal system attained its peak of development. While no official records endure to credit him, many references in Leonardo's notebooks and letters written by subsequent generations indicate an intimate connection.

There is a legend that Milan originated on a marsh in a plain below the Alps, where in a distant time a serpent swallowed a boy. We can verify the facts about the marsh and discard the myth about the serpent.

Similarly, there is a legend that Leonardo "made" these canals. "Leonardo ha fatto questi navigli." Where lies the difference between fact and fiction? I can locate the cases in his notebooks on a map, and credit him for helping to complete a navigable canal system. In a sense he may have "made" the canals work together, but the dream of integrating them belongs to generations before him.

The Milanese canals themselves are now fading into history, no longer used for transportation and gradually being covered over during this century. Their legend has already been obscured by modern life. They continue to irrigate the entire region, but they have lost their remarkable grandeur.

By underestimating the scope of the Milanese canal system, scholars can too easily dismiss Leonardo's contributions to it as myth. I desire to render a service to historians, the Milanese people, and the canals themselves by verifying the facts behind the legend which can still be identified 500 years later.