The Tombon de San Marc in Milan: great for travel and photography: learn all about its narrative

Hello! Today I am going to tell you all about the Tombon de San Marc in Milan, a great place to visit. It once was a little harbour and today a beautiful hidden urban spot. Read and find out its story, legends and the imaginative background to best visit and photograph it.

Tombon de San Marc in history 

The Tombon de San Marc means “the tomb of Saint Mark” and it has quite a history. During the Middle Age the city starts to build a system of canals along the city walls for both military and economic purposes. As a result, the canals become the most valuable form of transport of Milan. The Tombon de San Marc is part of this system, namely a long and narrow canal created by the water of the Naviglio Martesana River. There, the boats wishing to transit had to stop and pay the “Gabelle’ – the Italian word for duties.

So, this is the reason the bridge close to the Tombon de San Marc in Milan is called ‘Il ponte delle Gabelle”. In Italian this is the expression for ‘the bridge of duties’. Today though, the bridge is crossed by a pedestrian walkway, instead of a river.

Then as a result of the downfall of maritime transport, the Tombon de San Marc becomes a kind of urban lake. Later then, around the 1930s, it is emptied.


The Tombon de San Marc in legends

The Tombon de San Marc in Milan is also known for the different mysterious narratives that used to surround it. First of all a few of these tales come from the past presence on its soil of the San Marco Church old cemetery. Also, other ones come from the whirlpools and strong flows that made its waters infamous. Furthermore some stories come from the combination of the former ones: regarding those people who got lost passing through this place, probably falling in its waters.

Today the foggy atmosphere evoked by the origins of the place seems like being dissolved as the water that used to fill its pond. Romanticism and cosiness take over, defining what is nowadays considered one of the most interesting and exciting spot in town.


The Tombon de San Marc: picturing places

Once you start noticing the symbolic references scattered everywhere, it is easy to realise the peculiarity of this place in stimulating imagination outlining an urban landscape where time seems to stop while space is expanding.

Time seems like stopping because the place is relatively hidden and where once water used to flow and people to gather, it is now possible to hide and contemplate. Coming from the noisy via – Italian for ‘street’ – Melchiorre Gioia you’d like to pass through the Ponte delle Gabelle leaving behind the hustle and bustle of central Milan.

When you arrive at the Tombon de San Marc in Milan, space seems like expanding because the place recalls different urban scapes. It reminds in some way both the romanticism of Parisian river walk benches and street lamps or the hidden corners of New York Central Park. Two rather divergent scenarios that here appear able to mingle. All these stimuli make the Tombon de San Marc a perfect place for photography lovers.

Our advice to best visit the place and take great shots is to avoid peak hours. Try to go there early in the morning or at sunset time on weekdays. There is also a nice cafè where sit outside and have a coffee or a drink.

Best is to arrive from via Melchiorre Gioia, stopping a moment a few metres opposite to the Ponte delle Gabelle to observe and take shots of people crossing the bridge and becoming silhouette. Then it is your turn to pass under the bridge becoming a silhouette yourself.

Suddenly you find yourself surrounded by a lot of visual insights to grasp and develop: the ancient river gates made out of wood on a Leonardo da Vinci project; the formal connections between the Ponte delle Gabelle and the little bridge opposite to it; the colours of liberty architectures and much more.

As a matter of fact, these are just a few of the visual hints that we love to share with you about a place that keeps reflecting the signs of ages and culture and that it is all yours to explore. We’d love to know your thoughts about the article and the place!