Milan’s Gold

Milan’s Gold

Agricultural and social use of Milan’s water
Curated by Maria Antonietta Breda, Maurizio Brown, Pietro Redondi


For any city, water is gold: drinking water, as well as water used to transport things and people, operate mills and dispose of waste. Even more so, water is gold for all the cities that owe their wealth to agriculture.
This is the case of Milan, whose prosperity has come from agricultural produce, throughout history, thanks to the knowledgeable use of its underground and superficial waters, both natural and artificial: from its rivers to its natural springs, from its canals right down to its waste water system, its waters have been and continue to be at the very root of its flourishing fields, downstream of the city.
The etymology of its Latin name Mediolanum – mediuo amnium – means amid the rivers and, indeed, Milan is at the heart of a water system consisting of the Ticino and Adda Rivers and, south of the city, an extraordinary system of resurgences, which are natural springs, and, for centuries, they have made Milan’s wet plain a masterpiece of intensive agriculture.
This exhibition of unpublished vintage photos and maps has the purpose of showing how Milan’s waste waters have been traditionally used in agriculture and still are today through modern water processing plants. Other photos show the great wealth of the social use of water in a city such as Milan.


  1. A city born from the waters
  2. Milan’s gold
  3. Capitalizing on waste waters
  4. The rediscovery of used waters in agriculture
  5. Waters with a history
  6. From the  “Navigli” to the Milan’s Sea

The exhibition has been realized with a grant of
Università di Milano-Bicocca
Fondazione Cariplo, Milan
MM Spa
and the collaboration of
Museo di Fotografia contemporanea, Cinisello Balsamo, Milan.

We thank the following archives and institutions:
Archivio Città metropolitana, Milan; Archivio Leone Soldati, Milan; Archivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana, Milan; Archivio storico Intesa Sanpaolo, Sezione Fotografica, Milan; Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense; Cittadella degli Archivi e Archivio Civico, Milan; Civica Raccolta delle Stampe A. Bertarelli; Civico Archivio Fotografico, Milan; Depuratore Nosedo, Milan; Istituto per la Storia dell’Arte Lombarda, Cesano Maderno, Milan; Milano Depur; Progetto Acque di mezzo; Sistema Museale Urbano Lecchese, Fototeca, Lecco.

Special thanks to:
Andrea Aliscioni, Ornella Bongiorni, Cristina Borgonovo, Rosanna Carvelli, Barbara Cattaneo, Maddalena Cerletti, Franco Confalonieri, Bruno Daita, Stefano Gomarasca, Gabriella Guerci, Mauro Maffeis, Silvia Paoli, Roberto Passerini, Marco Pezzetta ,Nadia Piccirillo, Francesca Pizza, Roberta Valtorta, Ferdinando Zanzottera.

Graphics and digital images:
Officina delle immagini, Luca Postini

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