The Harbour of Cesenatico

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The Harbour of Cesenatico

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The harbour in the coastal city of Cesenatico is documented since old times. According to old documents, a landing at the mouth of the river Pisciatello existed already before 1302. But in 1314, the Council of Cesena started excavation and restoration works in order to have a harbour on the Adriatic that was used for commercial exchange activities. The council magistrates entrusted the harbour's Superintendence to hydraulic engineers who took care of the functioning and maintenance works. But because of the natural depression of the coast, the harbours in Romagna were often blocked by banks of sand causing hardship and danger, and preventing the traffic of the boats.

In 1502, the 27 year old Cesare Borgia, natural son of Pope Alexander VI and nicknamed "Il Valentino", had just reconfirmed the domination of the Church in Romagna by an efficient military action, defeating the small seigneuries that competed in the territory. In those years, the Duke Valentino was interested in defending the just conquered zone with a plan for the renovation of the fortress and strategic locations. The fast development of fire arms made the modernization of the medieval fortress an urgent matter. He therefore chose Leonardo da Vinci as general architect and engineer, entrusting him the control and necessary survey of all outposts, castles and locations in Romagna and then proceed with the relevant modifications.

Cesenatico is inserted in this context. Borgia brought to attention the need to create a more efficient harbour and a safe place for ships, and at the same time to definitely solve the problem of sand shelving. Cesenatico, due to its location between the Middle and High Adriatic was the ideal place for that. Leonardo da Vinci took care of the harbour during his trip to Romagna in 1502, in service of Valentino.

The works of da Vinci are documented in two drawings that the renaissance master realized in his travel book, today known as Codice L and kept in Paris, in the Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France, while an accurate and true reproduction is kept in the Public Library of Cesenatico. It is the pocket notebook (10.9 x 7.2 cm) that Leonardo had started in Milan, filling in with notes and drawings and that he took with him in his trip to Romagna. The first drawing is a relief of the port of Cesenatico with measurements and notes, written in his unmistakable right to left handwriting. The second drawing is an air view of Cesenatico, with notes about the orientation of the old Rocca (today gone) in relation to Cesena.

The invention of the two guardian piers (from which the one to the right is longer), the affluent ditches for flush of the canal harbour and a mobile bulkhead on the San Giuseppe bridge are all awarded to Leonardo. He designed the modifications of the harbour in a way that solved the problem of shelving. In other words, the changed the orientation and the length of each palisade and widened the connected basins, in order for the water to enter and accumulate, controlling the influx with mobile walls, but also to flow out fast during low tides, and keeping the entrance free during the ebb.

After the intervention of Leonardo, the harbour of Cesenatico became very competent and efficient and this great performance continued for the centuries to come. In the 18th Century, Pietro Leopoldo Grand Duke of Tuscany built a road connecting Tuscany to the port in order to facilitate the commercial traffic.

On the 2nd August 1849, Giuseppe Garibaldi, rushed up to defend Venice, and left Cesenatico with his 200 men on 13 fishing boats. Even though there was a storm in the sea, the port was considered particularly safe.
It has since then represented a safe refuge for fishing boats and has recently been used as a link to Croatia.

L. Gentili, E. Racchini

Bibliografia e sitografia

F. Santucci, Cesenatico, da porto di Cesena a Comune Edizioni Il ponte vecchio, Cesena, 1995
D. Gnola, Storia di Cesenatico Edizioni Il ponte vecchio, Cesena, 2001
D. Gnola, Cesenatico nella storia Edizioni Il ponte vecchio Cesena, 2008
M. MARINI CALVANI (a cura di), Schede di Archeologia dell'Emilia-Romagna, Bologna 1995
B. FARFANETI, Cesenatico romana. Archeologia e territorio, Ravenna 2000
C. Dondi Il porto di Cesenatico lo pensò Leonardo?


Tags:L. Gentili, E. Racchini, harbour, Leonardo da Vinci, .

Per saperne di più sulla città di: Cesenatico


Per informazioni su questi dipinti clicca qui.


Leonardo da Vinci. View of Cesenatico. Codice L. Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France

Cesare Borgia permit to Leonardo da Vinci, Vaprio D'Adda, Melzi d'Eril archives.

Leonardo da Vinci. Self-portrait. 1515 ca. Sanguine (red chalk) drawing 33.3X21.3 cm. Royal Library of Turin.

Leonardo da Vinci. Relief of the Harbour of Cesenatico. Codice L. Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France


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