And standing so still, suspended the rustling of his feet in the foliage, all silent about him, he began to hear a noise, a murmur, a murmur of running water. He is in ears; he is certain; exclaims: – it is the Adda! “(Alessandro Manzoni – I Promessi Sposi)
The Adda is the fourth longest Italian river. On its way (km 313) it touches almost all the Lombard provinces to flow into the Po just upstream of Cremona. The river originates from the slopes of Pizzo del Ferro in the Rhaetian Alps. After descending the Fraele Valley, feeding the Cancano lakes, it crosses the Valtellina and flows, along with the Mera river, into Lake Como in the Fuentes area. This town is named after Pedro Enriquez de Acevedo, count of Fuentes and Spanish governor of Milan.
To him we owe the fortress built to defend the borders from the people of Graubünden. The ruins of the fort on the Montecchio hill still dominate the panorama of the upper lake and of the Pian di Spagna. A small plain, today a protected natural reserve, formed by the debris left by the Adda that enters the lake here.
The Adda is the main tributary of the Lario.
South of Lecco, the river continues as the only emissary forming two small lake basins, Lake Garlate and Lake Olginate. An adjustment dam was built between the two ponds. Downstream of the lake, in fact, the waters have been used since ancient times for the irrigation of vast territories. The river has considerable historical, cultural and environmental importance, crossing a national park, two regional parks and an ecomuseum. The river continues its journey in a southerly direction into deep gorges that separate the province of Bergamo from the neighboring provinces of Lecco and Monza and Brianza.
This stretch is rich in examples of industrial archeology, because the proximity of the river was the ideal condition to build the first establishments.
Of great interest are also the old hydroelectric power plants built at the beginning of the 1900s.
Among the most significant, the Taccani in Trezzo sull’Adda and the Esterle, in liberty style, at Cornate d’Adda. But quick connections were also needed and then here is the San Michele bridge, a candidate for UNESCO recognition. Archaeological site par excellence is Crespi d’Adda, with its workers’ village. It was built at the end of the 1800s around the Crespi family textile factory. Also the municipalities of Garlate and Brivio host interesting structures such as former spinning mills, canapifici and linificio.
The Adda has always fulfilled the dual function of border and connection. Already under the Lombard rule, this river was on the border between Neustria and Austria. In the communal age some wooden bridges were built on the river. But these were mobile bridges that, in the event of war, could be quickly dismantled. From the fifteenth to the end of the eighteenth century it divided the Duchy of Milan from the Republic of Venice to the Napoleonic occupation.
Various strongholds present along the banks of the Adda are worth mentioning the Fort of Fuentes (Colico), the fortress of Trezzo sull’Adda and the walled city of Pizzighettone, imposing examples of military architecture.
River landscapes in the art of Leonardo da Vinci
This river inspired Leonardo’s art for some characteristic features of his landscape including rocks and water. On the backgrounds of some of his works, such as the Mona Lisa and the Virgin of the Rocks, the Adda is easily recognized. Between the end of the fifteenth century and the first years of the sixteenth century, Leonardo attended Villa Melzi d’Eril in charge of studying the course of the river between Paderno d’Adda and Trezzo sull’Adda in search of a possible navigability. From this commitment many pages of his Atlantic code were born, where we find intuitions and projects on the environment he was exploring.
Leonardo was attentive to the activity that took place on the banks. To facilitate the crossing of the Adda, he proposed the construction of a ferry that led from one bank to the other without using the oars. The project of the Imbersago hand ferry is attributed to him. Leonardo has dedicated many drawings to the connection between Lake Como and Milan using the Adda. There is a project for a derivative canal at Brivio.
Near the escarpment, near the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Rocchetta, there is another canal called Naviglio di Paderno which is also surely designed for navigation.
The towpath that runs along the river from Lecco to Truccazzano, is all passable on foot and by bicycle and is part of the Adda Nord regional park. Walking or cycling along the river, or the canals that line it in some places, you can enjoy the tranquility of nature and discover the flora of the Park.
Trips inside the Adda Nord Park, an open-air museum, also include Leonardo’s ecomuseum Adda.