The National Museum of Science and Technology “Leonardo da Vinci” is one of the most fascinating and diverse museums in Italy. It is located in the heart of Milan and occupies an area of 50,000 square meters, of which half is exhibition space. This museum is a must-visit place for anyone interested in the history of science, technology, and engineering.
The origins of the museum date back to the early 16th century when it was an Olivetan monastery, annexed to the church of San Vittore al Corpo. The complex included many buildings, such as monks’ cells, a library, the Abbot’s apartment, guest rooms, the Chapter House, and the novitiate hostel. In the early 18th century, the refectory, now known as the Room of the Last Supper, was built, where Pietro Gilardi executed the fresco of the Wedding at Cana.
However, during the Napoleonic occupation, the monastery was converted first into a military hospital and then into a barracks that lasted until the 19th century. Then, in 1947, the industrialist Guido Ucelli managed to obtain the area and, after several renovations, he transformed it into the National Museum of Science and Technology “Leonardo da Vinci.”
The museum was inaugurated on February 15, 1953, in the presence of the Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi. Initially, it included a library, two bars, and conference rooms. However, the museum has undergone many expansions and renovations in the following years. These expansions made it possible to include many new sections dedicated to different fields such as railway transport, telegraphy, telephony, television, robotics, genetics, biotechnology, steel, and more.
Additionally, the Flight Museum was established between 1953 and 1956 in an area facing Via Olona. It was a 30×70-meter metal hangar made available by Ente Fiera Milano and completed with historical materials from the Historical Office of the Military Air Force. In 2005, the museum received the Enrico Toti submarine, which was transported to the museum and put on display. Moreover, in 2014, the new space section was inaugurated, exhibiting the only lunar fragment in Italy’s possession.
The museum has also played a significant role in the education sector, and numerous exhibitions and themed shows have involved the museum over the years, from radio and television to Marconi and Leonardo da Vinci.
In August 1999, during the direction of Domenico Lini, a legislative decree transformed the public entity into a private foundation. In 2001, Fiorenzo Galli was appointed director, and an intense activity of re-staging and opening of new exhibition sections and interactive laboratories began. The food laboratory and the nanotechnology area were opened in 2010, followed by the section dedicated to basic chemical industry in 2011.
The National Museum of Science and Technology “Leonardo da Vinci” is a unique place to explore and discover the stunning advancements made in science, engineering, and technology throughout history. The museum’s collection includes more than 10,000 exhibits, ranging from machines and vehicles to scientific instruments and galleries devoted to the life cycle of products. Therefore, it is a perfect destination for those who want to explore the past and the present of science, technology, and engineering.