Before arriving in the city, Leonardo wrote to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milano, that he ‘knew how to conduct water from one place to another’.
Numerous sketches contained in Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus show his fascination with hydraulic works and water flows. As soon as he was in Milano Leonardo decided to commit himself to further improve the city’s complex canal system: ‘I will get some experience first, then I will proceed’.
Naviglio Grande was the canal Leonardo dedicated most of his attention to. Its construction began in 1177 in Tornavento and it was later extended to connect to the Milano docks in 1209. When it eventually became navigable, in 1272, it was also used to transport slabs of Candoglia marble to Laghetto di Santo Stefano, once a small lake in the very centre of the city, where barges would unload during Duomo's construction.