Also known as Naviglio Piccolo, it is one of the Milanese canals that connects the Milanese capital with the Adda river from which it receives its waters in Concesa just downstream of Trezzo sull’Adda
This time I would like to provide some information on the Naviglio Martesana, which I know well from having traveled by bicycle several times the Cassano-Trezzo section of the beautiful cycle path that starting from Milan, Via Melchiorre Gioia, continues to Vimodrone, Cernusco sul Naviglio, Cassina de ‘Pecchi, Gorgonzola, Inzago, Cassano, Vaprio d’Adda and finally Trezzo sull’Adda for a total of 32 Km. The Naviglio Martesana, also known as the Naviglio Piccolo, is one of the Milanese canals that connects Milan with the Adda river from which it receives its waters in Concesa just downstream from Trezzo sull’Adda; it has a length of 36 km, a width from 10 to 18 meters, a depth from 0.50 to 1.50 meters, a flow rate in Trezzo of about 25 m3 / s in Milan of 2 m3 / s. Commissioned by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, excavations began in 1457 and only at the end of the century, in 1497, did it join the ancient moat of the medieval walls of Milan. It was to serve mainly for the irrigation of the countryside but also represented the ambitious project to create a waterway from Switzerland to the Adriatic Sea, passing from Lake Como, the Adda river, from Ticino to the Po, with Milan taking stock nerve center of the network. The first stretch of the Martesana up to the Seveso (Cassina de ‘Pomm) was completed in eight years and made navigable as early as 1471; it was with the reformation of the canal commissioned by Ludovico il Moro in 1496 that the canal was extended to the city. In 1500 a period of great activity began for the Martesana canal that lasted until the entire second half of the nineteenth century. Fresh food, fodder, wine, grains, building materials, bricks, sand, tools and furniture arrived in Milan. From the city departed yarns and fabrics and the artifacts of the numerous artisan shops.
Numerous historical personalities who traveled on the Naviglio: starting from San Carlo Borromeo all the Milanese archbishops sailed it to go to Groppello at the Villa Arcivescovile; Maria Anna of Habsburg wife of Philip IV of Spain, Archduke Fernando brother of Emperor Joseph II; more recently Alessanro Manzoni, Cesare Beccaria, Giuseppe Parini. In 1958 the Naviglio della Martesana was downgraded from a transport route to an irrigation canal.
Today the water of the Martesana is exploited for the irrigation of the municipalities of the south-east of Milan including Peschiera Borromeo, through the Morocco cable and the Renata canal, for a total of 250 square kilometers. From a naturalistic point of view, the canal shares the flora and fauna peculiarities of the territory it crosses. The vegetation is represented by submerged plants such as the Elodea and the Ceratofillo, on the banks there are the aquatic Iris and the Marsh Reed. As for the fauna, various animals can be admired: Mallard (in summer with offspring), Kingfisher, Moorhen, Coot, Little Egret, Mute Swan and Herons.
Text and photos by Walter Ferrari