You almost never think of Milan as a water town, but it is so. Navigli canal’s system was born with the ambitious project of linking Milan with Lake Como, Adda, Lake Maggiore, and Po, coming to northern Europe and then to the sea.
Navigli’s history begins in the second half of the twelfth century, with the construction of the first navigable stretch. The first canal, the Ticinello, was inaugurated in 1179, and with its 50 km long, it paved the way for the construction of the Great Naviglio.
In 1457 Francesco Sforza entrusted Bertola da Novate the construction of Naviglio della Martesana but the real turning point was with Ludovico il Moro.
And what genius could complete such a complicated hydraulic work if not Leonardo Da Vinci? With a brilliant system of sluices, Leonardo da Vinci managed to connect Milan with Lake Como. Only the connection with the sea through the Po was missing: Napoleon completed the construction of the Naviglio Pavese in 1805.
The Navigli have lived alternate ages: they brought wealth, but then suffered abandonment and pollution, much of it was buried.
In spite of everything, the Milanese have always loved them, going for walks or attending the taverns and the venues around them. Today, they are experiencing a revival and are at the center of numerous redevelopment projects: the first one is the new Darsena, in the Naviglio Grande, which took place for World Exposition in 2015.
Bicycle trails, boats, relaxation areas are alongside traditional taverns, boutiques, and artists’ shops.
Opening hours: open air
How to reach: Metro Porta Genova, Tram 3, 9, Bus 160
Address: Piazza Ventiquattro Maggio