A Neighbourhood Guide to Navigli
Navigli is a neighbourhood filled with quirky bars, gourmet restaurants and riverside boutiques. Home to the last of Milan’s arterial waterways, this romantic canal district has plenty of history, style and charm.
Eating in Navigli
Navigli is all about little boutique eateries adhering to the sides of the canals to make the most of the postcard-perfect waterside settings. 28 Posti, named for its 28-seat capacity, is a contemporary dining room in the area renowned for its experimental spin on traditional Campanian food. The industrial-feel interior has a great dinner table backstory – the stylish timber décor was first fitted out by inmates of the nearby Penitentiary Institute of Bollate. You can’t really go wrong with a classic osteria when in Italy – and one of Milan’s best is the Michelin-starred canalside Al Pont de Ferr. It may look simple inside, but the gastronomy here is nothing but – this is Italian ‘slow food’ at its most exciting, with lots of homemade pasta, fresh fish and local grazing meats on the menu.
28 Posti Via Corsico 1, Milan 20144, 02 839 2377
Al Pont de Ferr, Ripa di Porta Ticinese 55, Milan 20143, 02 8940 6277
Image © Pont de Ferr
Drinking in Navigli
Milan is a city that champions aperitivo, so do just like the locals and head to Navigli for an early evening, pre-dinner drink. Whether it’s cocktails, wine or a simple spritz, there are plenty of spots to sit or stand at along the canal’s pretty banks. Rita & Cocktails is the watering hole of choice for inventive cocktails – this contemporary bar is very clever with its flavour combinations, and there’s a glass-encased patio here too for a tipple on the pretty, quiet side street. Speakeasy-styled UGO feels a little more Parisian than Italian in its décor – but this retro, and very intimate, pre-dinner drinking spot is where vintage cocktails and candelabras shine. If a spritz is more your drink of choice, the moody gin bar beside the Officina 12 restaurant, Gin012, is stacked high with a heady number of labels that make for the perfect nightcap – or two.
Rita & Cocktails, Via Angelo Fumagalli 1, Milan 20143, 02 837 2865
UGO, Via Corsico 12, Milan 20144, 02 3981 1557
Shopping in Navigli
Italy’s best-dressed city is one of the world’s fashion capitals, so there’s always time to hit the shops when you’re staying in Milan. Leaving the big-name designers to the Quadrilatero della Moda, Navigli is a neighbourhood with an exciting vintage and an independent design scene. Vintage shops pop up on both sides of the two canals, and there are plenty of independent ateliers and antique boutiques tucked away in the little side streets, too. One of the best places for an antique is at Navigli’s once-monthly flea market. The Mercato dell’Antiquariato takes over the banks of the Naviglio Grande on the last Sunday of every month, and is the perfect place to source antique furniture and handsome vintage leather items.
Milan is the most modern and cutting-edge of all of Italy’s big cities, but there are still elements of the old city dotted throughout. Traces of Milan’s Roman heyday can be found in this gorgeous neighbourhood – the historic quarter near the 16th-century Porta Ticinese is full of ancient architecture showcasing the city’s past. Right at the top of Corso di Porta Ticinese is the Basilica di San Lorenzo – one of the oldest churches in Milan. Originally built in Roman times, a succession of renovations over the centuries has turned this church into a breath-taking jumble of different architectural styles. Back down the street is the Basilica Sant Eustorgio. Home to the Portinari chapel – Milan’s finest Renaissance chapel – the 15th-century Vincenzo Foppa frescoes inside are outstanding masterpieces, too.
Art Galleries in Navigli
Between the Gothic, Renaissance and Futurism ideals of the 20th century, Milan is a city that’s been entwined with important art movements for centuries. There’s a great diversity of contemporary art dotted throughout the city, including a number of small and independent art galleries – like the Silbernagl Undergallery – which are tucked away right by Navigli’s canals. Dip into neighbouring Zona Tortona for some of the best cultural exhibitions in the city. The district’s David Chipperfield-designed MUDEC (Museo delle Culture di Milano) is a huge destination gallery that looks at the dialogue between different cultures and contemporary art.
Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro
Arnaldo Pomodoro is one of the most important sculptors of the Italian post-war era so it’s a bit of a legacy to the city that he’s been working in Milan since the 1950s. In 1995, Pomodoro – along with a board of directors – established a foundation that is entirely dedicated to the preservation of modern art; specifically, conserving and enhancing his own award-winning work while providing a collective space to support the creativity of other up-and-coming younger artists. The foundation has exhibition venues all over the city, but its main home is currently located in Via Vigevano in Navigli – along with the Project Room exhibitions and the foundation’s main archive, Pomodoro’s own working studio is just a couple of minutes on foot from the Naviglio Grande.
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