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Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Navigli: Milan's hippest neighbourhood

You may not read about it in travel magazines or newspapers yet The Navigli has long been Milan’s hippest and most happening neighbourhood. It was when we wrote Lonely Planet’s Best of Milan four years ago and having just spent a month there again renting an apartment on Ripa di Porta Ticinese overlooking the liveliest part of the canal (navigli means canals, and there are in fact two), we can say with some authority that it still is the place to go for aperitivi (early evening drinks and snacks) and, boasting some of Milan’s best ristorantes, trattorias and enotecas, it’s also the neighbourhood to head for dinner. Curiously, however, most of the major guidebooks leave it out or give it little coverage, and very few review its restaurants. Yet the streets are buzzy every night of the week. While mid-week sees local art students, aspiring models and bohemian types filling the tables at the pavement bars and eateries, on the weekends the streets heave with Italians from other parts of the city, along with foreigners (expats and travellers), although very few compared to the Brera. There’s no other area in Milan that has an atmosphere as buzzy as the Navigli nor has the density of excellent eateries and bars. And it’s not only an after-dark destination. The canals are lined with myriad bookshops, art galleries, antique shops, and vintage clothes stores (pictured). In a sprawling car park at the end of the main drag there’s a grungy clothes market every Saturday that sees the city’s Goths trekking here, while on the last Sunday of the month there’s an antiques fair that lines both sides of the canal. Save a visit until late afternoon when you can browse the shops, have an aperitivo overlooking the water, listen to some jazz, and then stay on for dinner.


Anonymous said...

I was never a fan of Milan. It didn't really appeal to me...

hopw all is well. I know you've been super busy!

Anonymous said...

That's exactly right. I have been there. Thanks for information.

Lara Dunston said...

Milan is definitely one of those cities that takes a bit of time to get to know. The first time we ever went there we stuck to the main sights - the Duomo, the Last Supper, the Brera neighbourhood, the fashion district etc

But then the second time we were determined to get off-the-beaten-track and visit the lesser known sights. When we did we were overwhelmingly surprised at how beautiful parts of the city were, the gems it had hidden away, and one of its greatest attractions - the stunning courtyards secreted away within each building. Once I started to realise they existed, I made an effort to snoop inside every big grand building we passed - they were just gorgeous!

But one of the reasons I really love the city is because it's less touristy than the others, more laidback, and more 'real'. Next time you're passing through on a stopover perhaps stay a few days and make an effort to get off the tourist track, and you'll probably find yourself very pleasantly surprised.