The da Vinci Science Museum is spread over 40,000 m2 and is in three separate buildings, one of which was a 16th century monastery. There are more than 15,000 pieces in the museum’s collection, so trying to see everything is like taking everything at the Louvre — an impossibility in a week, much less in a single day.
It’s hard for anyone with a love of science not to be drawn to a museum with the great Leonardo da Vinci’s name in it. I wish I could gush about what a wonderful museum this was, but that would mostly be untrue. There were a few aspects to the museum that were quite imaginative and interesting, but overall it was a rambling unfocused collection that was hard to get excited about.
By far the most interesting part of the museum’s collection is a look at the genius of da Vinci. Leonardo had multifaced talent with skills that ranged from painting to engineering. He lived in Milan during many of his most productive years (1482 – 1499 AD) and, as a tribute, the museum houses a collection of detailed wooden models based on Leonardo’s innovative engineering sketches.
The da Vinci models include items as diverse as diving equipment, flying and war machines, models of bridges and defensive works, and so on. All quite interesting, as you can see from the examples in the slideshow below.
The da Vinci models are housed in a room that also features some nice works of Renaissance art, rescued from bomb-damaged churches around Milan. I thought another very interesting museum collection was in the large Rail Transport Building (built as a recreation of an Art Nouveau railway station), which houses an assorted collection of historic steam locomotives and electric engines.
The museum has an unusual and popular exhibit which you can explore, but which requires a separate admission ticket. The Enrico Toti was the first submarine built in Italy after WWII and was in use from 1967 to 1999. It served in the Cold War primarily to monitor the transit of enemy submarines through the Strait of Sicily. Entering the submarine gives people insight into how crowded life was for those who lived and worked in these confined quarters for long periods of time.
There were some interesting historic rooms in the museum, like an actually 19th century clockmaker’s studio and the one below which is an actual 18th century clockmaker’s workshop and an old apothecary. The collection also includes sections focused on computers and calculators, watches, machines for sound reproduction, photography and film, and rotating exhibits on modern innovations. There are displays on space exploration….and extracting the power of the atom. There are several hands-on labs designed to try to inspire children’s interest in science.
If you are a fan of da Vinci, I’d recommend a quick trip into the museum to look at the models based on his drawings, with a side-trip to visit the collection of old trains. If your time is limited, there are many more interesting sights in Milan.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)