Adda River: boundless source of artistic inspiration
The Adda River originates at Monte Ferro, in the Carnic Alps, and crosses the Valtellina, flowing into Lake Como, continuing into Lake Lecco and arrives at the Po Valley, finally reaching the Po River. The Adda is the Po’s longest affluent and is the fourth largest river in Italy. It crosses eight provinces and the people living along its banks have always taken advantage of its benefits with the greatest respect.
The Adda has been a key player in many ordinary and extraordinary events that have taken place along with route: unusual stories and legends, epic and marginal fragments of history, and it has also caught the attention of many artists, who have found inspiration, nourishment and energy along its route.
There is infinite beauty to be discovered, natural, architectural and artistic, elements that, as mentioned above, were the source of inspiration for many writers and painters. Manzoni is one of the most famous examples.
“As he stopped for a moment…the wind brought a new sound to his ear—the murmur of running water. Intently listening, to ascertain if his senses did not deceive him, he cried out, ‘It is the Adda!’ His fatigue vanished, his pulse returned, his blood flowed freely through his veins, his fears disappeared; and guided by the friendly sound, he went forward.” This text is taken from The Betrothed, when Renzo comes upon the Adda River, and it is as though two beings who belong together, who are intimately linked, who await each other, are finally reunited.
In addition to including it in his masterpiece, Manzoni wrote a poem entitled Adda, in which he invites his friend Vincenzo Monti to spend some time on its banks. In his poem, the Adda is a god who speaks to Monti, reminding him to visit and enjoy its wonders.
Carducci includes a section entitled On the Adda in his Odi Barbare (Barbarian Odes), in which the Adda is praised for its constancy: “The sky-blue Adda, Lydian in its serenity”, despite the fact that time and history continue to advance around it.
Changing the art form to painting, the river also had an influence on the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, given that he lived nearby for several years. Although his interests seemed to primarily be in the area of science, many historians believe that the Adda, and certain perspectives, found their way into the backgrounds of his paintings, including some of his most famous. This is merely conjecture. However, it is certain that Leonardo developed projects regarding the river and its navigability and that he depicted it and the surrounding area in many of his sketches, in particular in the period in which he was a guest at Villa Melzi in Vaprio d’Adda. The Renaissance-style villa includes a terraced garden that descends to the Martesana Canal and looks out over the hollow of the river.
Even today, you can find evidence of Leonardo’s residence in the area. The ferry that bears his name crosses from Imbersago to Villa d’Adda, and is truly ingenious.
A steel cable was extended between the two banks of the river, to which a ferry was attached. The ferryman guides the ferry with the rudder while using an iron pole to push off. The ferry uses the river’s current, so no engine is necessary.
The Ecomuseo di Leonardo was founded within Parco Adda Nord and includes the provinces of Lecco, Milan and Bergamo. The territory is characterized by the river and the museum recounts the changes that its passage has rendered in the area over time.
Over the years, the river has not been forgotten and today there are many artists that use it as a model and many poets that relate their admiration for the beauty of the waterway and its banks. Some are in rhyme form, some in hendecasyllables, others use the local dialect, but all write their odes to the river that for centuries has provided sustenance to the inhabitants of its banks and a source of inspiration for artists.