The introduction of radiological contrast media and intravenous (i.v.) urography in clinical diagnostics in the 1930s enabled the discovery of several diseases, including the medullary sponge kidney (MSK). MSK is a renal malformation characterized by cystic anomalies of precalyceal ducts, which is frequently associated with nephrocalcinosis and renal stones. Although it was first recognized by G Lenarduzzi in 1939, its thorough description was the result of the ante litteram multidisciplinary cooperation between a radiologist (Lenarduzzi), a urologist (Cacchi), and a pathologist (Ricci), all at the Padua University Hospital. These authors 'established' the paradigm for its diagnosis that is still used today. I.v. urography is the gold standard for the diagnosis of MSK, but as the technique is used less and less, there is a concrete possibility of this renal condition being forgotten in the future. Although the pathogenesis of MSK has yet to be elucidated, its association with different malformative conditions supports the idea that it is a developmental disorder. Recent findings suggest that MSK may be the consequence of a disruption of the ureteral-bud/metanephric-blastema interface.