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Milan by Boat

September 22, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I took my kids for a trip on the waterways of Milano, the so called Navigli. These two canals are the only ones left in the southern part of the city center, bringing water of Ticino river to the Darsena back and fort. Untill the 30es of the last century the efficient waterways network was essential part of Milan’s infrastructure bringing every kind of goods in the city, especially the most hard to be transported like building materials. At the same time the canals worked also as sewage system of the city and for this reasons burying them into underground channels was certainly an improvement.

In recent years some initiatives are trying to bring the waterways of Milano to a new life, to improve quality of urban space having in mind examples such as Amsterdam and other north European cities. Projects are ready to be funded to dig new waterways more or less along the original routes, also as a part of the works to be done ahead of the World Expo in 2015. The tourist boat that we took is one of these initiatives called Navigli Lombardi.

The short trip (45 minutes) on the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese is certainly not as spectacular as seeing Paris from the Seine, London from the Thames or Berlin from the Spree. However it is a pleasant intimate tour along what used to be the backside of the average Milanese houses, including various kind of bridges, the middle age brick church of San Cristoforo, some vernacular houses (most of which converted into bars or restaurants) but also large condominiums of the 60es and 70es. Maybe these two canals were not buried because the neighbourhood they passed through was not worth enough. Nowadays it is the most beloved and picturesque corner of Milano, with a pleasant mix of tourism, decent nightlife and creative atelier.

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