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Leonardo’s Ferry Left High and Dry by Global Warming and Red Tape

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On a recent sunny morning on the banks of the Adda River in northern Italy, schoolchildren on a class trip to Imbersago — the “Town of the Ferry of Leonardo da Vinci” — gathered next to a moored boat and listened as a guide explained how the flights of the river’s birds, the formations of its rocks and the workings of its ships inspired Leonardo’s genius.

“Why doesn’t it move?” one of the students interrupted, pointing to the ferry, which sat behind a chain and a sign reading, “Service suspended.” It looked like a deserted summer deck atop two rowboats.

“The water needs to be high enough for the current to move it,” answered Sara Asperti, 45. “Also, they’re looking for a new ferryman. So if any of you are interested.”

Since at least 500 years ago, when the opposing banks of the Adda belonged to the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice, ferries have run on water currents and a taut rope above a narrow stretch of the river. Leonardo spent a lot of time in the area and sketched the motorless ferry around 1513. Later, the invention of the ferry, or…

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