The genius of Leonardo
With a staggering half a million virtual visitors a month Italy's most important Science and Technology Museum is well worth a visit wherever you may be
The museum is organised in twenty-eight sections which are spread over an impressive 40,000 square metres. It was founded in 1953 and allows the visitor to travel freely through different ages and realms of science, going from the great genius of Leonardo da Vinci to the cyberspace of William Gibson and beyond, as well as tracing the history of Italy from its beginnings as a crafts-based economy to becoming a major industrial player in the world today. The first thing you see on entering the museum is the Regina Margherita, a huge thermo-electrical steam plant built in 1895, you then pass Elea, the first Italian computer, to arrive at a reconstruction of the Tethered satellite, a space dynamo tested out on the shuttle.
We continue our visit in the oldest of the museum buildings, an ex-Olivetan monastery, which holds one of the museum's greatest attractions, the "Leonardo da Vinci Gallery". More than 30 models of machines made or drawn up by Leonardo are displayed in the gallery. Don't miss the interactive section (scroll for text) where visitors can operate seven of Leonardo's inventions themselves.
Leonardo's marvellous machines
You can run a Quicktime animation on all the machines in the Interactive Lab, uncovering explanations and links to Leonardo's original drawings.
One of our favourite machines is the beating wing tips , the precursor of a long series of human-powered flying machines.
We continue as far as the Rail Transport Building where 20 steam engines are on display inside a loving reconstruction of a Liberty-style train station. And then quickly on to the spectacular Air & Sea Transport Building which holds the record for the largest ship in an indoor museum - the schooner Ebe.
Then dedicate some time to the museum's Internet division - which is much more than a virtual copy of the museum. There is an entire section dedicated to the Italian translation of a highly acclaimed site on Cyber geographic research. The site is full of information, including conceptual and artistic representations of cyberspace as well as a series of maps to help you visualise the 'Net.
Giuliano Gaia, co-ordinator of the museum's website, told us that the museum was currently developing a new version of the site to meet the demands of their 500,000 monthly visitors, almost twice the number of ticket-paying visitors. Before leaving Gaia suggests we sit awhile in the peace and shade of the museum's Cloister before continuing our Leonardo trail (Italian only) throughout Milan - or for those who have joined us from afar - on the net.
Visitors to Milan can go to the Navigli for food and accommodation and enjoy the buzz of Italy's business capital.