11 May 2012

From Switzerland to Venice and Trieste by water, passing trough Milano - di Enrico Mercatali

From Switzerland to Venice and Trieste by water, 
passing trough Milano

Lake Maggiore, Waterways and the Navigli
will allow to get from the swiss Alps to the Serenissima solely by boat 

by  Enrico Mercatali

The waterway Locarno-Milan-Venice has finally been approved by the European Community and given financial  support, which makes its realization even more imminent.

At the same time, plans for reopening the historical water courses and locks in the center of Milan are getting started.
An integrated system of waterways that will change many things in the socio-economic, touristic and cultural italian panorama.

"MILAN – Do you think it’s impossible to get to Venice by boat leaving from Locarno, in the italian part of Switzerland? The “water motorways” will be brought back to life by the fourth “Discent by boat for the recovery of the waterway Locarno-Milan-Venice-Trieste”, orgenized by the Associazione Amici dei Navigli di Milano and the Associazione Motonautica Venezia.
The trip will go through Lake Maggiore, the river Ticino, the Industrial Canal, the Navigli, the river Po and the Venetian lagoon, trying to make us relive the ancient fluvial link of Northern Italy, which will be relaunched in the future as a “really modern” way to go from the Alps to the Venetian lagoon by water.
On board of six LPG boats, the crew will stop in the main river ports for cultural and gastronomic meetings”.  

The news has therefore been given by the quotidian “La Stampa” on Friday the 12th August 2011. Which is then the project behind it, which are the true prospects for a structure able to give birth to a new kind of tourism, and maybe  to new modalities of trade links for poor and heavy goods?
The green light given by the European Community, obtained last month, is already a step forward in the realization of this dream.
I remember that since I attended prof. Lucio Stellario d'Angiolini’s classes at the faculty of Architecture at the Politecnico in Milan, between 1965 and 1970, the town planning farsightedness of that “educational gym” had already suggested this work, despite some little differences with the current project.

Today, thanks to the efforts made by all those who have believed in this project, the work seems to be about to become real.
A few weeks ago the Vice-president of the province of Novara, Luca Bona, has announced that the authorities in charge of the funding have acknowledged the first phase of the project. “We are approaching the final phase, our goal is closer”, he said.

As far as the province of Novara is involved, the project aims at carrying out an  interchange harbour in the Municipality of Arona, which will probably cost about 500,000 euros. According to the plan, once founding is obtained, the work gets an immediate start, in order to be completed within two years and to be used in sight of the Expò.

The project deals with the building of a wharf with two different moorings, one for high-speed means on the lake waters, the other for means of transport on the Waterway itself.
Thanks to this work, Arona would become the inevitable interchange harbour for the two different methods of transport, gaining a particular status that could help the town attract a flow of international visitors even greater than the current one, obtained thanks to the other initiatives in Piedmont which at various levels and conditions have been launched.

The Naval League of Arona, as an association experienced in lake navigation, has already contributed to the drafting of the project. “A close collaboration, a positive synergy was born between us (the League members and the Waterway planners, n.d.r.)”, says Bona. “When the project was being examined, we have firmly advised against the work being made at the ex-harbour Velati, positioned towards the low promenade of the Lungolago Marconi. Wind and wave-motion were incompatible with that. Works would have cost too much there”, says Giuseppe Liberati, vice-president of the Naval League. “The solution we have eventually adopted is surely optimal: tourists who want to use the interchange harbour are only 150 metres from the railway station, so that they can move more easily”, says Luca Padovani, president of the Naval League.

The Waterway was in former times an important economic drive, while nowadays it is often interrupted by blockages and differences of level. In these points boats will be lifted up by cranes and carried by lorries. On 17 and 18 April they will make a stop in Milan, where 70 lucky people will be allowed to take a trip on the Navigli. In Milan a meeting will also take place between the “ballottine” – historical Venetian boats – and the modern boats, used for the descent. Milan as an old harbour: “In view of the Expo, we would like to quicken the plans and the works in order to give back to Milan the role of main internal harbour in the Mediterranean Sea ”.

This is the dream of Empio Malara, president of the Association Amici dei Navigli.
The boats, after getting through to the Navigli, the river Po and the venetian lagoon, and after reaching the harbour of Trieste, will arrive in Venice on the 26th of April. The journey is a great project aiming at the rediscovery of a way of moving (and carrying goods) with a low environmental impact. A total of 820 kilometers of water, culture and nature.

The route between Locarno, Milan and Venice, is a complex work. The region Lombardy is still focusing on the overcoming of the dams of “Panperduto” (,10.50,60.0), and Piedmont on the lock for the overcoming of the dam of “Porto della Torre” (

The route from Locarno to Venice, going past Milan, is 540 kilometers long. The goal of the project and of the States and Regions involved is challenging:
by 2015, date of the Expò in Milan, Switzerland will be connected to the Adriatic Sea passing by the area of Novara and Milan itself. The project involves 2 nations, 4 regions, 12 provinces and 171 municipalities.

In the meantime, the project of the reopening of the Milanese Navigli has been introduced in two different institutional circumstances (we talked about the project in another article of Taccuini internazionali It deals with the intergration with the whole navigation system of Pianura Padana right by the Darsena of Porta Ticinese. It will be an excellent occasion for national and international tourism for arriving or leaving from the regional capital of Lombardy and getting to the furthest places, from Switzerland to the North-West and from the Adriatic Sea to the East; also, the ones who come from the lakes and the sea will have a chance to visit the city centre of Milan.

The project opens a suggestive future towards the showdown of Italy and its fragile economy, in the balance of its most important industry, which has become nowadays the touristic one.

 We update the article with the following news:
An article by Chiara Fabrizi has recently appeared on the quotidian “La Stampa”. We publish here the title, a bit ambitious: “The highway on the water from the river Ticino to the Adriatic Sea- the Waterway of Locarno- Venice will be recovered for the tourists":

We also cross-refer to the article of Taccuini Internazionali:, given the analogy of topic.

Lesa, August 24th 2011
Re-entitled and updated on April 20th 2012

Enrico Mercatali
(translated from italian by Penelope Mirotti)

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