All of Milan’s poetry is reflected in the Navigli

Naviglio di Milano

In Milan, the Navigli canals are a landmark for night owls and foreign tourists. The most mundane corner of the city houses also one of its most genuine souls, a piece of history where tradition lives harmoniously with the modernity of the small restaurants and bars, always crowded starting from aperitif. The magical atmosphere of this area of Milan, characterized by tenements, by the inns, the lights that are reflected in the waters of the canal, the boats made into restaurants, has always been favored by artists and artisans. One in all, “the poetess of Navigli ” Alda Merino, who was born just a few steps from Porta Genova, in Via Mangone.

The system of canals in Milan is formed by five main canals: the Naviglio Grande, the canal of Bereguardo, that of Paderno, the Naviglio Martesana and the Pavese. Taking a step back in time, we find that the first navigable segment dates back to the second half of the twelfth century, when, in 1179, 50 kilometers of the first canal, the Ticinello, were inaugurated. This marked the start of construction of the Naviglio Grande. Even today you can admire the grand project carried out by the engineers who worked at it and the innovative system of locks created by Leonardo in the late fifteenth century.

In 1457 Francesco Sforza, entrusted to the engineer Bertola from Novate the construction of the Martesana. In just 35 years, from 1439 to 1475, in the Milan area were built 90 kilometers of channels, made navigable by the presence of 25 basins. A record all Milanese. With the arrival of Leonardo in 1482, the Martesana was completed and began to set up a new system of canals that allowed navigation from Valtellina to Milan. On behalf of Ludovico il Moro, Leonardo studied a way to navigate to Milan from Lake Como. Thus was born the system of locks: hand-drawn sketches of this project by Leonardo himself, are preserved in the Museum of Navigli.

Napoleon was the one who turned the dream of the Milanese into reality, by completing the construction of the Naviglio Pavese in 1805, at which point the sea was reached via the Naviglio di Pavia and the Po, Lake Maggiore through the Naviglio Grande and the Ticino, Lake Como via the Martesana and the Adda. The romantic canals of Milan were paths to transport various goods: for example Martesana remained active throughout the nineteenth century both as a regular passenger service, and as a way of intense commercial traffic along which the barges brought to Milan grain, fruits, livestock, sand, timber.. Up until the time when cars, faster and more comfortable, completely replaced the transport function of the boats on the Navigli.

Today the Navigli are navigable through the activities of certain groups such as the NavigliLive and the Institute for the Navigli. The first organizes tourist itineraries about an hour long, to admire Milan’s cultural and artistic masterpieces from the “water point of view.” You can choose between three routes, and why not build a program to try them all: one is the route of Conche, along the Naviglio Grande. On the same Naviglio is the itinerary of the villas and the delights that offers trips from Cassinetta di Lugagnano to Castelletto di Cuggiono where you’ll find the impressive staircase of Villa Clerici, with stops at the amazing scenery of the historic village of Boffalora Sopra Ticino, the grand parsonage of Bernate Ticino and other villas in the area dating back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Finally, the route of the Martesana, connecting Concesa di Trezzo with Vaprio d’Adda, through the green territory of the Ecomuseum Adda di Leonardo, the Crespi Village and Villa Castelbarco.

The waterways are navigable in Milan thanks to the recovery work of the Institute for the Navigli which is developing and promoting enhancement projects since 1998. The main one is just the restoration of recreational boating and passenger service from Lake Maggiore to Milan and from Milan to Venice lagoon to reconnect Lake Maggiore to the Adriatic Sea via Milan in this way restoring the basins of Leonardo’s time. An even more ambitious project in the making, is the recovery of the waterway Locarno-Milan-Venice to realize the dream of a trip from Switzerland to the Adriatic sea. It should be ready for the Expo 2015 and will allow you to navigate for 600 kilometers between Ticino, Navigli and Po.

The website finally suggests an interesting tour of about 10 kilometers from Milan (Docks) to Caggiano. Every Sunday, a boat covers this stretch allowing passengers to enjoy the scenery slowly, finding furnaces, spinning, dyeing, tanneries, paper mills arisen in the late nineteenth century and along the typical tenements houses with bright colors. On holidays you can also get lost in the markets of antiques, art and modern art.

One last treat: the last Sunday of the month at the Naviglio Grande towpath is the canals market. At the beginning of the trail the antique shops with old decorated porcelain plates await you, to put on the table a delicious bite of Milan.

Per informazioni:

Naviglio di Milano navigabile

Naviglio di Milano la sera

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