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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 contribution that Leonardo Da Vinci gave 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 can see the typical houses that historically made the working class districts of Milan, the “case di Ringhiera”. The cruise will continue to the oldest church in the city: the Church of San Cristoforo, whose construction began in the 13th century and it’s now the most chosen church for wedding celebrations in the whole 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, 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 – today still one of the main centers of Milanese nightlife.
Leaving the Darsena and crossing the Trophy bridge, you can see the alley of cheese makers where the delicious Marscarpone cheese is consider to be invented. And finally you will arrive to the Conchetta, the first of the 14 navigation basins that connects Milan to Pavia. Designed by Leonardo da Vinci, this 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 transportation 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 represented an excellent method of transport, abandoned only in the first half of the nineteenth century due to the competition with the railways.
4) Alda Merini, one of the greatest Italian women of the 20th century, was born on the Navigli and often wrote about them in some of her poems.