Navigating the Navigli is one of the most authentic and proper way to get to know the real city of Milan. The Milanese waterways have existed since Roman times and have always played a fundamental role in the history and economy of the city - this itinerary allows to discover the secrets of this fascinating neighborhood up close. The canals, also called Leonardo's Navigli, due to the work that Leonardo Da Vinci have put into it by designing the dam system. The boat ride on the Navigli is a must among the things to do in Milan.
The tour starts on the Naviglio Grande where you will see the typical houses that historically made the working class districts of Milan, the “case di Ringhiera”. You cruise will continue one of the oldest churches in the city: the Church of San Cristoforo, whose construction began in the 13th century and it now the favourite church for wedding celebrations In the city.
Proceeding by boat along the Naviglio Grande you will come across the historic headquarters of Canottieri Milano Olona, the first rowing team in the city and the famous Vicolo dei Lavandai, an architectural jewel that takes its name from the Confraternity of the Launderers. Since the 18th century this guild was in charge of washing the linen of wealthy families, these they were collected in panniers and carried on the shoulders in the alley up to the iconic washhouse still existing today.
Crossing the Scodellino bridge, you reach the modern and famous Darsena, an area of entertainment and recreation on the water, characterized by the presence of bars, restaurants and clubs – still today one of the main centers of Milanese nightlife.
Leaving the Darsena, continuing to navigate the Naviglio Pavese and crossing the Trophy bridge, you can see the alley of cheese makers where the delicious Marscarpone cheese is said to have been invented. And finally you will come the to the Conchetta, the first of the 14 navigation basins that connects Milan and Pavia. Designed by Leonardo da Vinci is still operational five century after its construction.
The navigation on the Navigli ends at the starting jetty, on the Naviglio Grande.
Did you know that …?
There are several curiosities that can be found on the canals, here are some of them:
1) The transport of the marbles that still decorate the Milan Cathedral today, coming from the Candoglia quarries on Lake Maggiore, took place through the Naviglio Grande.
2) In 1805 Napoleon completed the construction of the Naviglio Pavese to connect “Milan with the sea”.
3) Navigation on the canal was an excellent method of transport, abandoned only in the first half of the nineteenth century due to competition from the railways.
4) On the Navigli one of the greatest Italian women of the 20th century, Alda Merini, was born and lived her life so emotionally attached to the canals that it inspired her astonishing work writings.