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A friend posted a picture of an "idroscalo" in Milan. The dictionary tells me that it means "seaplane base", which I understand is similar to a seaport. However, the photo was of a sculpture by a small lake. Are there other meanings of this word in common usage?

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    Is it possible that your friend meant the Idroscalo which is in Milan? That one is an artificial lake. – user193 Jun 27 '14 at 14:23
  • Sorry, I fixed a typo in my question. – user145 Jun 27 '14 at 14:34
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Idroscalo is the name of an artificial lake outside Milan. You can find info about it here: Idroscalo site

It's located here: Link

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  • Yes, I think this is it. However, it looks like a park rather than a seaport of sorts. Does it function as both? – user145 Jun 27 '14 at 14:35
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    Idroscalo is the name of the whole area, Park+lake. Around the lake there is a big park. Also you can use the lake as a seaport for your own plane or rent it there – LombaX Jun 27 '14 at 14:51
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The confusion is justified, Idroscalo actually means "seaplanes base"; and behind Milan's Idroscalo there's a somewhat interesting story.

In the late twenties seaplanes were quite important in civilian airlines, and were thought by many as the future of aviation for Italy, also due to its strategic position on the Mediterranean sea; thus, a seaplane base was deemed important for Milan, which already was one of the most important cities in the North of Italy.

Works for the Idroscalo started in 1928, and it's still quite clear from the elongated shape of the lake that it was originally intended as a landing strip for seaplanes (although the usage for sea sports was planned from the beginning).

Idroscalo and Airport of Milano Linate - Satellite View

Even though (for once) the works for the actual digging finished quickly, the second part of the works (administrative buildings, hangars, ...) took much longer than expected (as always in Italy), and at the same time the lake started being used for sport events (rowing, swimming, ...).

So, while seaplanes usage started declining, the sport usage of the lake consolidated, especially after it hosted several important international rowing competitions. At the end, they finally gave up with the idea of an important seaport, and the Idroscalo was left for leisure and sports, as still is today.

Incidentally, in the photo above you can also see that, below the Idroscalo, there's an actual airport (Milano Linate AKA Aeoroporto Forlanini, IATA code MIL), built to replace the older Taliedo aviation camp. They decided to place it here when the Idroscalo was still considered a future sailplane base (1934), to build an integrated planes and seaplanes hub. Fortunately, unlike the Idroscalo, the Forlanini Airport was actually completed, and is still in use today.


Sources:

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  • Hey, thanks for the interesting, well written history lesson. I'm not sure whether to accept your answer over the other (both correct, thought yours is much more thorough). – user145 Jun 29 '14 at 2:18
  • +1 for the interesting and thorough answer (but I'm not sure it is necessary to berate the inefficiency of Italian public works again in each paragraph :-) ). – DaG Jun 30 '14 at 9:16
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    @DaG: thank you! As for the inefficiency of public works, it's just one paragraph :) (and seeing how the construction of a particular 10 km bypass road near Segrate is ongoing since about the mid-eighties, I think that it is appropriate to berate whenever possible ;) ) – Matteo Italia Jun 30 '14 at 9:36

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