Milan does not lie on any significant and large river. Nevertheless, there are canals here, Naviglio, which are fed by the rivers of the hinterland. These man-made connections give Milan access by water to the Adriatic Sea.
The Navigli are a system of canals and waterways that run through Milan. It took about 7 centuries to build.
The first canal, 90 km long, was built in the 12th century. Its construction took 35 years. This canal, the Naviglio Grande, was further developed in the 15th century with the construction of locks by Leonardo da Vinci. Today you can still find some locks on the Naviglio Pavese.
In the course of Milan’s history, several more naviglio were built:
- di Paderno
- di Bereguardo
- Canale Muzza
Unfortunately, there are not many canals left in today’s streetscape. They have been filled in and built over. However, the Naviglio Pavese and Naviglio Grande can still be found today. The two canals meet in Milan’s old harbour basin, the Darsena.
This area is now one of Milan’s excursion areas. In addition to many tourists, you can meet many Milanese on their Sunday stroll here, especially at the weekend. A path along the harbour basin invites you to take a leisurely stroll here. Afterwards, you should walk along the canals. Here you will find numerous restaurants and cafés right on the water. The more lively Naviglio Grande is navigated by small excursion boats that offer a tour of the city by boat. Here you will also find many restaurants that are already open at lunchtime.
We also walked along the somewhat quieter Naviglio Pavese. This is not quite as beautiful visually as the neighbouring canal, but we discovered an old lock system there.
The way these locks looked, however, I hardly believe that shipping still takes place here.