There is nothing better than sailing through the canals admiring palaces, villas and vegetation. If someone thinks that we are talking about Venice, you are wrong. Also Milan and surroundings can be admired by canals and the landscape, seen in a completely different perspective, shows hidden treasures. Lombardy’s canals are called “Navigli” and they are navigable: sailing through Navigli is a wonderful and unusual way to discover the artistic beauty of the area, surrounded by untouched nature.
Here are five things to know for boat trips on Navigli:
1. What are the Navigli:
Milan is crossed by 5 canals, connecting to Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and the town of Pavia. Artificially built in the 12h century, the Navigli are the oldest canals of Europe, and made Milan one of the most important commercial ports. They were used to transport goods or to irrigate fields, and also to reach Milan from neighboring municipalities. At that time people used to sail on the Barchett, small boats that passed at established hours just like a bus, and that got to Milan in 7 hours. Many workers and artisans have lived through the Navigli’s banks for hundreds of years, and now we can see very picturesque villages.
2. How it works:
The tours are organized by the “Navigli Lombardi” consortium, which is also responsible to protect, promote and preserve the canals. Every year, the routes change: this year, there are three different trips. The starting point is at Alzaia Naviglio Grande 4, every day until September, with a pause from 12th to 19th of August. During the summer, also nights trips are planned, but each route has specific times. For information, www.naviglilombardi.it. Once there, you can decide which route to follow.
3. What to see:
This year there are three itineraries available. One of the less demanding is the Conche trail, which lasts 55 minutes, and allows you to admire many historical places such as the Alley of Lavandai, where women for centuries have washed the clothes of the Milanese, Palazzo Galloni, and the Monumental complex composed of the church, the Bridge and the washing of St. Christopher. The route continues under the “Scodellino” bridge, than enters the dock, once an authentic port of exchange with Lake Maggiore. The Fontalini trail, continues to Corsico, Trezzano sul Naviglio and then Gaggiano, where you can visit the Sant’Invenzio Sanctuary. The Delizie trail covers the stretch of Naviglio Grande leading to Cassinetta di Lugagnano and Castelletto di Cuggiono, in the countryside, surrounded by beautiful patrician villas dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Then you meet the Ponte Vecchio Magenta, the historic village of Boffalora Sopra Ticino, Bernate with the Augustinian Canonical, and the wonderful staircase of Villa Clerici, in Castelletto di Cuggiono. You can finish the tour with a lunch in Boffalora Sopra Ticino.
Food and wine lovers cannot miss the NavigarMangiando trial, that crosses the canals and then stops in a typical restaurant for dinner. It’s planned in the evening and every time it reaches one of the many restaurants along the banks of the Naviglio, where you can enjoy typical local delicacies and relax. The comeback is particularly enchanting, sailing thourgh the charming Naviglio Grande in the moonlight. You can choose to dine in Bernate Sopra Ticino, Pontevecchio di Magenta or in Robecco sul Naviglio.
5. The Darsena:
The tour’s starting point overlooks the refurbished dock, completely redeveloped for EXPO 2015, with the aim of creating a fun and exciting place for Milanese people. It is the link between the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese, in the past an important connection for the river trade. The dock, called “Darsena”, for years has been neglected and lifeless, and now thanks to the restructuring that has equipped it with many green spaces, art installations, locations, a market, many piers and many events, it has become one of the hearts of the city centers, hosting many events in the summer evenings. It is the ideal place for an aperitif at sunset, or for a sunny afternoon with family or friends, waiting for the Navigli’s tour.