Is Leonardo’s Ferry Moored Due to Global Warming or Due to Bureaucratic Credentialism?

(p. 4) 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.

. . .

. . . some of the townspeople say an Italian problem more daunting than climate change is the real culprit for the ferry’s immobility since May [2023].

“Bureaucracy,” said John Codara, who owns the gelato shop next to the ferry.

. . .

“I mean Leonardo wasn’t a moron,” he said, under a framed picture of Leonardo. He demonstrated how the ferry worked on a small wooden model made by a local pensioner — “It’s to scale; it’s worth 500 euros,” or nearly $550, and argued that low water and weak currents meant operators required elbow grease to move it across the cable connecting the two banks.

“The force of the ferry is these,” Mr. Codara said, pointing at his biceps.

What they did not need was an advanced nautical degree, he said, as he marched out of his cafe and made a beeline for a sign honoring “The Human Face of the Ferry” and its pilots over the past century. “Harvard, Harvard, Harvard,” Mr. Codara said with derision as he pointed at the names. “They all went to Harvard.”

Roberto Spada, 75, whose father was one of those ferrymen, said he helped navigate the ferry as a 12-year-old and was interested in helping out the town by doing it again as a volunteer.

“I thought with my license I could do it,” Mr. Spada told the mayor as they leaned against other signs posted next to the ferry that featured both Leonardo’s sketch and an excerpt from Dante’s “Inferno” about Charon, “ferryman of the damned.”

A retired truck driver and president of the local fishing association — which has the ferry as its logo — Mr. Spada had a boating license but seemed bewildered as the mayor explained all of the certifications and bureaucratic hoops that needed to be jumped through to pilot the ferry.

“It’s a really long process,” said Mr. Vergani, the mayor.

For the full story, see:

Jason Horowitz. “Leonardo’s Ferry Left High and Dry in a Warming Climate.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, April 23, 2023): 4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 25, 2023, and has the title “Leonardo’s Ferry Left High and Dry by Global Warming and Red Tape.”)

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