If you are looking for what to see in Milan today I tell you something about a very special place to visit there: the Darsena (the Dock of Milan) and the Navigli district (the canals of Milan).
The “Navigli” and the “Darsena” are among the things to see in Milan. Because of its story but also because this district is a very amazing part of Milan.
What to see in Milan: the story of “Navigli” district
But let’s start from the beginning: Milan was a city of water. Would you believe it? Perhaps no one would say today, looking at its traffic congested streets and buildings that rise vertically up as if to touch the sky. But until a few years ago, the capital of Lombardy was a river city and still today the canals of Milan are the most obvious evidence. Do you know that even the “Duomo” (the Cathedral of Milan) was built thanks to the ships?
There are five canals (in Italian “navigli”): “Bereguardo“, “Grande“, “Martesana“, “Paderno” e “Pavese” and their history is very old. The canals of Milan were in fact built in the twelfth century and thanks to these waterways was possible to connect Milan to Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, the city of Pavia and the Po river. The “Water Ways”, that’s how were called the canals in Milan, liquid roads that allowed the transport of goods, food and even entire armies, allowing Milan to grow and develop more and more, through trade with the cities and neighboring countries. The construction of canals, or rather, to their navigation, also worked Leonardo da Vinci, that that ‘400 was commissioned by Ludovico il Moro to design a system to allow you to reach by river Lake Como, starting from Milan.
The canals of Milan were implemented and used by up to ‘800 when, made obsolete by cars, were gradually abandoned and, in many cases, underground. Then, after a period in which the canals of Milan poured into a state of neglect, almost forgotten by people, these ancient waterways were rediscovered and began to groped to give them a new life. Today the Navigli and Darsena district is full of educational and historical-cultural routes. But this is also a sort of new soul of Milan, trendy and nice.
Visit Milan: Navigli and Darsena district today
Today if you walk on the towpath of the “Naviglio Grande” you will encounter a bustling neighborhood and a bit ‘bohemian: there are many bars, restaurants, ethnic markets, trendy shops and a lot of tourists. So this corner of Milan has a unique atmosphere, very different from what you will find in the rest of Milan.
Recently it has been restored also the “Darsena” (the ancient dock of Milan). The new dock is the point where the “Naviglio Pavese” ( the Canal of Pavia”) and the “Naviglio Grande” meet. Here in the ‘600 was organized a large port berthing of boats traveling along the canals of Milan, which remained active until the 60s of the last century. The “Darsena” (the dock) is located in “Porta Ticinese” and today it is a nice area to walk or eat an ice cream, a small lake in the center of the city, a witness of the water past of Milan.
So in my opinion the Darsena and Navigli district is one of the things to see in Milan maybe… for a “happy hour” (the aperitif in Milan).
Practical information for visit the Navigli and the Darsena district
The information and pictures you find in this article refer to the canals of Milan situated in the area between “Porta Ticinese” and “Porta Genova”, along the last stretch of the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese. Below you can find some tips to visit Navigli and Darsena district.
How to get Navigli and Darsena district
In this area is quite hard to find parking, especially in the evening: the parking lots available are “pay and displey parking” or reserved for residents. So the best way is to reach the area by train or subway. the stop is “Porta Genova” and from there you can get to the “Naviglio Grande” and the Darsena with a short and relaxing walk.
What to do in Milan: Darsena and Navigli district
Along the canals you can find the boats that allow to visit the “Navigli” canals. Along the canals in fact there are real treasures such as vintage residences, mills, castles, abbeys and hydraulic engineering. The towpaths of the canals can be traveled by bicycle for a total of about 150 kilometers and there are also several navigation routes.
La the “Darsena” area of Milan and the “Naviglio Grande“, however, it is very characteristic even for a walk that allows you to enjoy at least a little ‘atmosphere of this particular corner from Milan. In addition to the many bars, restaurants and craft brewers do not miss the opportunity to look around a bit ‘in the courtyards that open along the towpath that hide unexpected treasures. One of these is where the headquarters of the “Centro dell’Incisione Alzaia Naviglio Grande“: this centre hosts a small exhibition for his 40 years of life.
At the “Darsena” dock you will find a small covered market, while not far away, along the towpath of the “Naviglio Grande“, there is the beautiful “Mercato Metropolitano” (Metropolitan Market). The Metropolitan Market is a place where I recommend to stop for a lunch, a snack or even just to do shopping. Located in the former warehouses of the railway “Porta Genova” the Metropolitan Market is a project that promotes sustainable purchasing and the short chain model. It is designed as a real farmer’s market, with manufacturers and street food, vegetable gardens in deposit box and a small supermarket. There is also an area dedicated to children where they are organized art workshops in different languages and open-air cinema. The Porta Genova Metropolitan Market is open from morning until late at night.
What to see in Milan
There are many other things to do in Milan in addition to the “Darsena” and “Navigli” district. If you are looking for ideas to visit Milan below you can find some tips:
- Free cost attractions in Milan: Visit Milan is quite expensive but there are also free attractions that you can see in the city.
- What to do in Milan with kids: Some tips to plan a weekend in Milan with kids.
- Alternative things to see in Milan: If you have already been in Milan you can find new ideas to visit hidden places of the city.
- A food tour in Milan: A food tour in Milan on foot just to discover what to taste in Milan (and where)