The Naviglio Grande, the oldest canal in Milan that also gives the Navigli area its name, has been of great importance for the city for many centuries. Built between 1177 and 1257, it is more than 50 kilometers long and was primarily used for transporting goods, such as blocks of marble used to construct the city’s marvelous buildings. Today, the Naviglio Grande and the area surrounding it are home to charming boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants. During the summer months, visitors can also take a boat tour for about an hour along the famous canal with boats departing every hour from Alzaia Naviglio Grande.
Another way to explore the Navigli area is to go on one of the city’s popular beer tasting tours. For two and a half hours, tourists are led through the fascinating history of local artisan breweries while also finding out more about the quarter’s rich culture and heritage. The tours start off at Milano Porta Genova railway station and make their way into the heart of the Navigli area. You will get the chance to taste a wide range of locally produced beers in the authentic atmosphere of typically Milanese pubs. You can find out more on their website here.
Basilica Sant Eustorgio, dating back as far as the 4th century, is one of Milan’s oldest churches. It originally housed the relics of the three kings and from the 13th century onwards, and this church became the main location for the Dominican Order in Milan. The Cappella Portinari, a magnificent chapel, is the highlight of Sant Eustorgio, as you will be able to see the 15th century frescoes of the Storie di San Pietro Martire by Vincenzo Foppa, and the 14th century Arca di San Pietro Martire by Giovanni di Balduccio. Saint Eustorgio is impressive both on the inside and outside.
Piazza Sant’Eustorgio 1, Milan, Italy, +39 02 5810 1583
One of the best ways to get to know Milanese culture and immerse yourself in local customs is to enjoy authentic food. The area around the Naviglio Grande is full of outstanding restaurants that not only offer traditional Milanese cuisine but also make for a great spot to mingle with locals. I Pesciolini, for example, is an excellent restaurant in the heart of the Naviglio Grande, which serves delicious seafood and local fish specialties at affordable prices and has a picturesque setting.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese 33, Milan, Italy, +39 02 8496 6832
As the home of the famous Italian aperitivo, the tradition of having a glass of spritz, wine or light cocktail accompanied by a number of savory snacks in the early hours of the evening, Milan has many cool places to enjoy a drink between 5pm and 7pm. Manhattan Bar is a great place for the traditional aperitivo hour, as the bar not only serves excellent drinks, but also delicious food. In addition to this, it has a great outdoor seating area with stunning views of the Naviglio Grande.
Ripa di Porta Ticinese 13, Milan, Italy, +39 02 5810 0895
Much like the aforementioned Basilica Sant Eustorgio, Basilica di San Lorenzo dates back to the early 4th century and is therefore considered one of the city’s oldest churches. It was originally built from blocks used for former amphitheaters and other major Roman sites. Dedicated to St. Lawrence, the church houses the remains of the saint along with St. Ippolito in its magnificent chapel of St. Aquilino. Although the church underwent extensive restoration during the 16th and the early 20th century, original Byzantine features have been kept in the chapel as well as the church’s tour towers. Basilica di San Lorenzo is a true architectural masterpiece where visitors get the chance to admire a combination of different building styles and techniques that emerged over the centuries.
Corso di Porta Ticinese 35, Milan, Italy, +39 02 8940 4129
The Parco delle Basiliche, also referred to as Parco Papa Giovanni Paolo II, is located behind the famous Basilica di San Lorenzo in Milan. It is therefore called the park of the basilicas. Once used as the site for public hangings, the park has a rather dark history; however, since the area was officially transformed into a park in the 1930s, it is renowned for its beautiful natural landscape. Parco delle Basiliche is especially known among locals for its diverse range of trees, such as several species of maples.
The Naviglio Grande, once the most important transport route through the city, and the area surrounding it, have been transformed into an especially lively part of the city that is home to up-and-coming restaurants, independent cafes and outstanding art galleries promoting local talent. This is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the sunset over the city of Milan while enjoying an aperitivo in one of the many stylish bars. The breathtaking views of the canal will long be remembered.
The Navigli area, one of the most up-and-coming parts of Milan, is an art lover’s haven. The area is an absolute must-visit location for everyone who loves art and enjoys exploring small galleries. Many of the galleries not only showcase impressive works of art of renowned artists, but they also give young local talents the opportunity to promote their work to a bigger and increasingly international audience. During the Salone del Mobile, the design weeks in Milan, visitors can also find temporary outdoor photography and contemporary art exhibits in this area.
As Europe’s fashion capital, Milan is home to the most prestigious designers and renowned fashion labels in the world. However, there are still some small shops that promote the hidden gems of vintage fashion, away from the hustle and bustle of the most popular shopping streets. Pourquoi Moi, located on Ripa di Porta Ticinese, is one of those great finds. Pourquoi Moi sells outstanding vintage pieces, primarily from the 1960s and 70s, along with a great selection of shoes, handbags and other accessories.