Our guides will take you on an unusual walking tour through the greenest courtyards in the city, telling you the story of the Navigli and the past of Old Milan which is still reflected in the waters of the old canals. Listening to the poetic verses of Alda Merini, you can admire around the Navigli picturesque corners and secret courtyards, hidden between the old-fashioned Milanese houses built with central balustrades, a riot of flower-decked balconies and luxurious vegetation. At the end, a brief visit to one of the most surprising corners of the Alzaia Naviglio Grande awaits us: the Centro dell’Incisione (Engraving Centre) is here, with its presses and ink.
The pictoresque side of Navigli
Led by the stories of our guides, we walk through the most picturesque courtyards of the Milanese Navigli, even prettier in the flowering season and with its colorfull old-fashioned houses. The history of this piece of the city begins as early as the 12th century with the construction of the first navigable stretch of Milan’s network of waterways: for centuries Milan was a city of water, criss-crossed by rivers and canals regulated by ingenious technical solutions. Barges and boats would sail into the heart of the city to carry goods and products, including the splendid blocks of marble of Candoglia needed to build the Duomo!
Navigli, from the typical old fashioned houses and the courtyards to the night life
Today, although it is famous for its nightlife, the Navigli area has preserved intact the charm of Old Milan, revealing to us places where time seems to have stood still: on the guided tour, we will go with the guides into a typical popular house, in Corso San Gottardo 18, one of the few remaining examples of an old “casèra”; we will go down a stretch of road along the Darsena, the old port of Milan, today marvellously redeveloped; we will evoke, reading them together, the lines of Alda Merini, the “poetess of the Navigli” to whom a small museum is dedicated in the former tobacconist’s in Via Magolfa; we will look on to a magical courtyard, in Alzaia Navigli Grande 4, the office of the Naviglio Grande Association, home to the studios and workshops of artists and craftsmen. And between Via Vigevano and Alzaia Naviglio Grande, there is a sequence of unusual corners, with courtyards, balustrade houses and ancient washing basics; it is impossible not to mention the famous Vicolo dei Lavandai, where for centuries the laundry of the Milanese was washed on the so-called “brellin”, today the name of a long-established restaurant.
The last stopping place on the tour led by our guides will be the courtyard of the Centro dell’Incisione: on the other side of the 17th century threshold and the lush vegetation which covers the old building, there is hidden a real hotbed of works of art, frozen in time by the tight grip of the presses. Here, Gigi Pedroli, an artist and founder of the Centre, still works on his creations and skilfully teaches the ancient manual art of engraving.