Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Navigli, car parking, shops, trams and food in Milan

It is a little known fact (at least it was little known to us) that Milan used to be Italy’s fourth largest sea port. This was made possible by the Navigli which were five interconnected canals going around and through the city and also connecting the city to some the lakes and rivers in the region (and hence to the sea). Construction started

navigli canal map

in 1179 (Naviglio Grande) and continued until the 16th Century when the Naviglio Martesana

Old Milan Canal Map

was finished. Milan then had a canal ring around it. Leonardo had a hand in their design and development and his role is detailed here and a good history of the canals can be found here.

In the Brera section of Milan, you can see

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some of the original lock gates which were

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used to control the water flow. In theory, these are being restored

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although they have some way to go before the restoration is completed.

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The original line of this canal can be seen

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even though it was filled in some while ago.

The canals started to decline in the mid 1850s and during the 1900s, some were filled in or covered over to be used as roads. Three canals still survive and as in many cities, these canals now have a new lease of life due to their character and history.

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We visited one at night and the area was packed with people sitting at cafes enjoying a meal or an aperitif or simply taking a stroll.

Public transport in Milan

We found that the best way to get around Milan (other than walking) was to use public transport. The Metro and bus / tram system is cheap and fast – we purchased a two day ticket for €8.25 each which becomes a bargain if you make more than two separate journeys costing €1.50 each in a day. There is also an extensive tram system, some modern

Tram 1

and some older (with far more character).

Tram 2

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We also used the train system when we went Train TIcketsto Monza for the afternoon / evening. Monza is about 12 kms from Milan and the train got us there in 18 minutes at a cost of only €2.10. In comparison, we were driven back to Milan and it took about an hour because of the traffic.

Parking a car in Milan

Car Parking is difficult in most Italian cities and the Milan solution seems to be toMilan 107

park as close as possible to the person in front (and hence get wedged in yourself eventually)

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and also to park across the pavement

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if you cannot park parallel to it!

Shop Windows in Milan

As one might expect in a city known for its fashion, many of the shop windows are superbly laid out and examples of great display.

Shop 1 Shop 2

This quality of presentation extends to other areas and we were particularly taken by the

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displays in food shops, be they simple displays

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of mouth watering food

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or complete shop windows.

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One thing we noticed as we walked around is that the concept of the small shop focusing on

Food Shop

a specialist range of goods still exists in Milan. Sadly in England, this is now the rarity.

 Food 1

When we ate out, most of the food presented

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Food 2

to us resembled works of art

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and it seemed a pity to destroy this art by

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eating it

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We had no such problems however with ice cream and our waist lines now reflect an over indulgence.

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Food even appeared in lots of the paintings

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we saw in the art galleries – this one in the Pinocoteca di Brera.

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