On the Ticino river, south of the covered bridge*, which was one of Pavia’s most symbolic monuments, there is a now abandoned structure, left to decay. It is the Idroscalo of Pavia, which was an important piece of history of the Pavia of the Twenties. Although there is a community that hopes for a restoration of this piece of city history, proposing its use as a museum, exhibition location, restaurant or entertainment venue and a project appeared about a year ago, due to high costs it was not done nothing. The project consisted in the functional recovery of the structure with a large exhibition space and a restaurant: in short, a terrace on the river that should have also attract many tourists.
The origins of the Idroscalo of Pavia date back to the early twenties, when the Italian Air Services Company (SISA, Societá Italiana Servizi Aerei, which was the first Italian airline for passenger transport) commissioned the istrian engineer Giuseppe Pagano Pogatschnig to design a service that connected the Idroscalo of Turin and Trieste, making Pavia an intermediate step for some operations of assistance on the fly.
In fact, although for some years Trieste had been equipped with a base for the first airboat flights in Italy and immediately after Turin it had opened a second one at the Valentino, there was no intermediate step to rest pilots and travelers. The proposal was immediately accepted and in April 1925 the yard for the construction of the Idroscalo was opened, which was located on the banks of the Ticino in front of the houses of the Borgo and south of the Covered Bridge. The structure of the Idroscalo was relatively simple and consisted of a hangar with windows on three sides built on reinforced concrete pillars resting on the riverbed. The docking of the seaplanes took place by means of slides that allowed the operations of disembarking and boarding of the passengers.
Its construction was contemporary with that of similar structures in the main ports of call of the Turin-Trieste route and completely similar structures were built in other cities served by the airline such as Turin, Venice, Trieste and Zara.
Only a year later, on April 1, 1926, the first plane from Trieste, with four passengers and some mail bags, arrived in Pavia, welcomed by Benito Mussolini in person with some ministers and hierarchs, as well as a crowd of onlookers.
That of April 1, 1926 was the first inaugural flight from Turin to Trieste. Seaplanes could not travel long distances and the 500 km flight included stops in Pavia and Venice. To complete the journey from Turin and Trieste, five hours of flight were required, and a stop was foreseen for refueling and for the refreshment of passengers. That of Pavia was one of the 27 hydroports present in Italy before the Second World War and then the seaplanes were privileged means also for war actions.
From the majestic structure, resting on a series of pilasters about seven meters high, the Idroscalo was one of the first examples of rationalist and fascist architecture in the province of Pavia, it had as its civic number 51 of Lungo Ticino Sforza, and the plate is still today visible near the outer wall on the side of the road.
Usually after the departure from Turin, the seaplane made a stop in Pavia, to then leave for Venice and then arrive in Trieste to return the next day to Turin.
Stopping in Pavia was necessary to refuel and perform some technical checks, while passengers were allowed to rest thanks to a delightful restaurant and a large waiting room. In addition, blankets and hot water bags were offered, as well as cotton plugs, to protect passengers from the noise of the engine that was above their heads.
A curiosity? There was only space for 5 people on the seaplane and the ticket cost 350 to 375 lira. It was a very high cost, equal to a monthly salary of the time. The cabins were not pressurized and passengers were given hot water, woolen blankets and ear wads to muffle the noise.
Until the end of the 1920s, the Pavia Idroscalo was important for the communication of most of Lombardy, so much so that even Milan connected to it with some coaches. However, with the arrival and development of the terrestrial airports, including the first of Milan, Taliedo airport** at the beginning of the 1930s, many Idroscalo had to close their doors and among these was also Pavia. The Idroscalo remained in operation until 1942, when SISA was absorbed by the Mediterranean Aerial Society.
After a brief period in which, between the Fifties and the Sixties, it housed various equipment in addition to dredgers and tugs operating on the Ticino river, from 1981 it was abandoned definitively.
Today the Idroscalo is in serious condition of total degradation and abandonment, despite in recent years there have been some recovery projects, all failed miserably.
* Read more about Covered Bridge here (article by Danijel).
** Read more about Taliedo Airport on my article.