This impressive science and technology museum is a fitting tribute to Milan's revered former resident. One of the most fascinating halls here displays modern models based on da Vinci's sketches, in the fields of military theory, ballistics and aeronautics - but this is just one section of a 10,000-item collection.
Originally a 16th-century monastery, the buildings have had various incarnations - military hospital (Napoleon), barracks (Italian army) and rubble (World War II Allied bombs). Established just after the war, the current museum was finally inaugurated in 1953, and is now the largest of its kind in Italy. Wandering through, it's hard to think of any aspect of industry or technology that isn't covered. There are displays dealing with metallurgy, printing, bell-casting, minting, engines and horology, as well as the sciences of physics, optics, acoustics and astronomy. An exhaustive computing section shows the evolution of calculating techniques from Pascal's abacus of 1642 to the first IBM processor. Exhibits are laid out so you can see the evolution of a cartwheel into a Vespa, or a Morse code transmitter to state-of-the-art mobile phones. The museum's interactive labs, where children can learn, hands on, about the background and application of cutting-edge advancements in science and technology, was expanded for a second time during a temporary closure in 2008, and new galleries were also added.
The museum's biggest draw is the Enrico Toti, the first submarine constructed in Italy after World War II. It was launched on 12 March 1967 as an SSK (hunter-killer submarine), primarily as a deterrent against the nuclear-propelled torpedo-launchers of the Soviet Army. It was discharged from service in 1999, and the following year the Italian Navy donated the vessel to the museum. After transport and extensive preparation, it opened to the public in December 2005. Viewing regulations are strict: groups consist of a maximum of six helmeted visitors, led by a museum guide. Tickets (€8, no reductions) can be reserved in advance or on the day, and paid for at the museum's reception.