Milan and its first forgotten airport.4 min read
Few people know that the first ever Milanese airport was neither Linate nor Malpensa. The latter, although born in 1909, became a reference point for the Milanese industrialists only in 1948. Instead Linate airport was born in 1932, when the Podest Marcello Visconti di Modrone proposed to the Minister of Aviation Italo Balbo the construction of a new airport.
1910 is officially the year in which Milan and the Milanese began to fly. Small or large, all cities around the world have a history made of moments that determine their development in one direction rather than the other: the construction of a bridge, the excavation of a tunnel, the inauguration of a monument or the opening of a new railway line. In the spring of 1910 the green light for Taliedo’s airfield was given, the first airport of Milan.
The construction works of “the Aerodrome of Italy”, as it was pompously called by the civil authorities of the time, began with the demolition of a dozen farms scattered in the meadows south-east of the city. All but one were demolished, the farmhouse of Taliedo, which gives its name to the place where in 1910 it was decided to carry out the International Air Circuit: a center open to airplanes and pilots from all over the world.
In the whole area now located near the Caam exit of the eastern beltway of Milan, the buildings destined to become hangars and maintenance workshops arose. The latter replaced the courts of the numerous farmhouses that stood in the area between today’s Via Mecenate, Via Salomone and Via Bonfadini.
To connect the area of the new airfield with the city the tramline 35 was established, which had the terminus in Piazza Ovidio.
Already in 1913, however, what was born as a Taliedo airfield became a military airport with two squadrons of the Aviator Battalion of the Royal Army.
Only two years later, during 1915, the Italian Aviation Development Company chose via Mecenate as the site for the construction of the plant in which to assemble the aircraft designed by Officine Caproni.
Despite military use, in the first post-war period Taliedo airport experienced its period of greatest activity. In fact, with the second half of the 1920s, the first civilian flights took place. It was Taliedo that hosted the first flights on the Milan-Trento-Munich route. To open later in Berlin, Rome, Turin and Zurich.
Milan, like the rest of Italy, was emerging from a long and painful war. The industry was recovering from the war effort and the need to look across borders was starting to make itself felt. Aviation was a symbol of progress and courage and so began to attract the attention, as well as fascism, also of the “Milan that counts (or that counted)”, of engineers and industrialists above all.
The first freight transports began, business trips, but also, for those who could afford them, the first tourist trips.
Taliedo worked a lot, so much so that the upper echelons of the fascist aviation thought of an expansion of the airport by designing the seaplane base, built then in the late 1920s. In August 1932, Gabriella (Gaby) Angelini, a true pioneer of the air and a patented 19-year-old pilot, left Milan for a “European raid” without parachute aboard a Breda 15 light vehicle. It took off from Taliedo and also landed in Taliedo after flying over Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France.
It was an enterprise that had great resonance in the international press and success prompted her to try another, a second raid from Milan to Delhi. However, during the crossing, “Little Gaby”, as she had been renamed, fell into the Libyan desert due to a terrible sandstorm. Little Gaby died and was buried at the monumental cemetery of Milan, where her tomb is still recognizable today by a life-size bronze propeller.
Also thanks to the deeds of Little Gaby, within a decade the aviation experienced an exponential development.
With the passage of time, and with the progressive intensification of air traffic, Taliedo’s facilities were no longer sufficient.
So it was that the construction of Linate Airport began, the completion of which, in 1937, gradually reduced the influx of aircraft to the old airport.
Little by little the first airport of Milan fell into disuse until it was completely forgotten.
Almost nothing remains of that complex today. What was the landing strip was erased from the subdivisions and the ground, while the hangars of via Mecenate were transformed into what are now the Rai production center and the Citadel of Gucci fashion.
However the time has not completely erased the memory of what those places meant. In fact, in the area behind the railway, located between Via Salomone and Via Zaia, some pieces of history remains. Despite being in a state of complete abandonment, 5 military hangars remain, which despite the collapse of the roofs, the breaking of the walls, and the situation of decay in which the whole area falls (which at the beginning of the 90s gain the nickname “Drug Supermarket”) they still manage to tell us something about their history, and what they represented for the city of Milan.