Whilst attending a partners’ meeting of the Interreg IVC ‘Waterways Forward’ project in Milan staff from the Landscape Interface Studio, Kingston University were guests of Navigli Lombardi s.c.a.r.l. Navigli Lombardi s.c.a.r.l. is the body responsible for management, development and promotion of the 160 miles of canal system in an area that covers 1,800 square kilometres, home to 3 million inhabitants of the Lombardy region. We met with Alberto Tresin and architect Giovanni Matteo Mai to spend a day touring the Navigli and adjacent landscape. Initially used for the irrigation of farm land and defence of the territory, then for navigation and transport, the Navigli canal system has recently been partially re-opened to encourage tourism.
They have initiated 5 tourist routes on the canal system with a year-on-year increase in passenger uptake. The marketing principle is to connect the waterways of Milan to the neighbouring agricultural heritage, creating a sustainable economy linked to tourism. We headed out from Milan to view the redevelopment of some “cascines‟, or farmhouses. These are historic buildings are now finding new leases of life either as museums, sites for social enterprise or run on ecological and recreational lines that take in tourists. It is hoped that the redevelopment of these cascines will help draw investment into the Navigli system and offer sites of interest for trip boats.
One of these sites, in the Zibido San Giacomo Municipality, is the Cascina Salterio, an 18th century farmhouse overlooking the canal. The Municipality, the Province of Milan, Lombardy Region, and private parties, aim to redevelop the ruined building to create a museum focused on food and local agricultural heritage. It will strengthen links with existing initiatives such as “Walk on Water” a local project linked to reversing and enhancing environmental resources, historical, architectural and cultural heritage and the “Navigli Masterplan”.
We then turned north and followed the Navigli Grande through the regional Parc Ticino from Abbiategraso to Turbigo, the site of the Turbigo West thermal power plant. Water from Naviglio Grande is used to condense steam from the power plant turbines and contributes to the income generation of Navigli Lombardi s.c.a.r.l. In Morimondo, south of Abbiategrasso we visited the Cistercian Monastery founded in 1136. Here the monks drained marshlands to create agricultural wealth and now the monastery attracts visitors from all over the world generating vital income for the local region.
Images courtesy of Giovanni Matteo Mai and Navigli Lombardi s.c.a.r.l.