“The history of Europe’s waterways is interwoven with the adjacent landscape….”

In advance of Landscape Interface Studio’s visit to Milan to take part in a workshop as part of the annual FAN Navigli Aqua Festival, Claudio Repossi of Navigli Lombardi s.c.a.r.l. writes in response to the earlier article Europe’s waterway heritage – part of the ‘cultural infrastructure’.  Here he develops the connection between Milan’s Navigli network and development of the proposed Salterio Museum complex.

The history of Europe’s waterways is interwoven with the adjacent landscape – here in Lombardy we have the Navigli system. Over the course of history, their hydraulic and technical complexity determined the structure of settlements, rural organization of the countryside and urban planning, playing a decisive role in the economic development of the region.

In Lombardy, for example, countless homes of the nobility were located along the banks of the Navigli and contributed to the development of the canals themselves and the historic centres which sprang up along the canal and the surrounding area. These historic sites, together with the surrounding natural environment, are treasures to be safeguarded and further developed to support tourism, culture, and the economy.

I would like to focus on re-evaluating the cultural heritage of the Navigli and other European waterways and preserve their natural surroundings and historical context. The Navigli System is endowed with landscape and environmental resources which make up the identity of the Region. These elements must be recognized for the valuable asset they offer and be safeguarded against the risk factors such as deterioration, neglected conservation and inappropriate use of the surrounding area.


The inter-relationship woven between the historical and memorable values, the natural features and the farming tradition gives the area, crossed by the Navigli System, a complex environmental identity which is clearly perceived and deeply felt by the local populations.

Local manual labour, which over the years has enriched the canals and their surroundings, has turned this complex system into something that can be considered a work of art; something which bears witness to the genius and skilled workmanship over the centuries. From this perspective the Navigli System may be considered part of the cultural heritage and regional identity leading to a harmonious improvement of the canals themselves thus improving the living standards of local communities.


Together, the European waterways are a cultural infrastructure and offer European cultural routes to be explored by enthusiasts and lovers of waterways giving an opportunity to enhance the development of those regions. It is essential to analyze the interests of stakeholders in order to develop policies of governance and plan instruments in such a way as to create opportunities (in the heart of Lombardy or another European area) for smart and sustainable development of adjacent regions and waterfront and improvement in the standard of living.” Source: Claudio Repossi, Milan.

A museum for everyone: the local community’s involvement

To illustrate Claudio’s comments here is information on the development of a new museum located to the south of the Milan. The museum complex is being developed from one of the Navigli’s neighbouring “cascines” or farmhouses. These are historic buildings which 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 – some even have spas. 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. The proposed Salterio Museum complex is planned ahead of Milan’s Expo 2015. Salterio Museum – “Officina del gusto” – is an opportunity for the recovery of historical identity and monumental architecture located on the edge of Milan’s canal network.

Casine Salterio before development

This project is organized around two main themes:

  • agriculture + food
  • memory + landscape.

The Museum will host a media library specialized on agriculture, food, environment and landscape, conference areas and meeting rooms, exhibition area and a documentation center on the history of the territory and landscape of Milan. These activities are complemented by the promotion of local products and educational initiatives with laboratories and workshops based on food education, environmental education, protection and enhancement of the landscape.

A loan was obtained from the Municipality of Zibido who are involved in an European Regional Development Fund project under the ‘Competitiveness: Protection and enhancement of cultural heritage’ strand. In addition, the private sector has contributed to the City of Zibido for the restoration of the building that will host the museum. Other resources are being acquired.

The municipality of Zibido began a series of activities to build a shared identity before the opening of Salterio Museum (currently the works of architectural restoration of the building are ongoing. It was decided to involve citizens, associations, operators, farmers and especially children.


The activities to be undertaken in 2013 are:

  • students to develop a local cookbook interviewing old people about recipes, ingredients, culinary traditions, memories of places, landscapes, etc
  • collection of books, pamphlets, periodicals, brochures, manuals of food, gastronomy, traditions to be organized for the library
  • collection of kitchen equipment and agricultural small objects.
  • workshop to be developed for local farmers to define a strategy of mutual support – a Memorandum and Agreement for the development of synergistic activities in the field of culture and business
  • website dedicated to the “Salterio Museum” – under construction
  • international competition to create the museum logo open to students of European schools of architecture and design


With thanks to Prof. Arch. G. Matteo Mai, Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Politecnico di Milan and Head of Cultural, Scientific and Management for the Salterio Museum project for source material and illustrations.




One comment

  1. Pingback: Museo Salterio, Milano – Taste and Landscape | Landscape Interface Studio

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