MILAN — Ticinese-Navigli Area

This area was once Milan’s port and was important for river transport for many centuries. It was still working up to the end of WW2 and then closed permanently in 1979. Until 1928 Milan had an inner circle of canals or Navigli that were used in the past to help transport the marble that was needed to build the Duomo but these were filled in. Today in the outer suburbs of Milan there is the Darsena or Basin and there are canals here as well. Ticinese has always been and still is a working-class district although smart shops, restaurants and cafes have sprung up around this area. The area around the Darsena has become a trendy area with young professional people moving into its renovated and restored penthouses in amongst the working class people who still populate this area. There are also lots of cafes and restaurants and it is one of the areas of the city that is particularly known for its nightlife. There are two canals running through the Navigli district, the smaller of which is based on a design by Leonardo da Vinci, and during the summer a popular pastime is a boat tour of the canals which leave from Darsena at Porta Ticinese. In the off-season parts of the canals are drained for cleaning and maintenance.

The sights found here are:
Basilica di San Lorenzo
Parco delle Basiliche
Sant Eustorgio
Porta Ticinese
Darsena

Basilica di San Lorenzo

Basilica di San Lorenzo
Basilica di San Lorenzo is considered to be one of the oldest buildings in the city. It was founded in the 4th century and dedicated to St Lawrence. The foundations of the church were made of huge blocks taken from the nearby amphitheatre and other Roman sites and the interior was decorated in marble and mosaics. The church was rebuilt in the 11th and again in the 16th centuries and then renovated in the 1930s. Despite the rebuilding and renovations some of the original Byzantine features were kept such as the centre building, the four towers and the chapels. At the front of the church are sixteen Roman columns which still have the original octagonal floor plan and there is a copy of a statue of Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor. The dome that you see on the exterior was added in the 16th century. The rectangular portal is from the Roman era and this leads to the spectacular octagonal chapel of St Aquilino where there is a tomb with the remains of St Lorenzo and St Ippolito. The mosaics in this chapel are from the 4th century.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.sanlorenzomaggiore.com (in Italian only)

Parco delle Basiliche
This park is found behind the Basilica San Lorenzo and its name comes from its close vicinity to this basilica and that of Sant Eustorgio. Until 1840 this area was used for public hangings of condemned commoners. The park was built in the 1930s when the city decided to clear up some of the buildings that surrounded the Basilica San Lorenzo and also to drain the swampy land behind the church. It is a popular resting place on a hot summer day.

Sant Eustorgio

Sant Eustorgio
This is one of the oldest churches in Milan. It was founded in the 4th century and rebuilt in the 19th century. It originally housed the relics of The Three Kings but later on they were taken to Cologne in Germany. From the 13th century this church became the main location for the Dominican Order in Milan. One of the highlights of the church is the Cappella Portinari which you can enter from behind the main altar. Here you will see the 15th century frescoes of the Storie di San Pietro Martire by Vincenzo Foppa and the 14th century Arca di San Pietro Martire by Giovanni di Balduccio. Another significant chapel is the Brivio Chapel which dates back to 1484 and contains a Renaissance tomb and a triptych by Bergognone.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.santeustorgio.it/ (in Italian only)

Traveller's Tip

Make sure you visit the church in the evening. There has recently been lighting put on the church and the bell tower has a star light that is lit up in the dark and looks like the star that guided the three wise men to Jerusalem.
Porta Ticinese

Porta Ticinese
This gate is the former city gate of Milan and was once located on the Roman road that led to Pavia from Milan. Only a part of the Neo-Classical original is visible today. The gate was first built with the Spanish walls of the city in the 16th century. This original structure was demolished and replaced early in the 19th century to celebrate Napoleon’s victories but it was rebuilt again in 1865. The streets between Porta Ticinese and Antica Porta Ticinese are popular shopping areas mostly geared to the younger market but there are also some great shoe shops at reasonable prices and there are some good restaurants as well.

Darsena

Darsena
This small waterway found next to the Porta Ticinese is all that is left of the intricate system of canals and rivers that was around Milan since Roman times and is part of the history of Milan. The oldest canal is Naviglio Grande which takes water from the Ticino river. This canal was built between 1177 and 1257 and is about 50 kilometres long. In the past it was used for transporting goods, particularly for the blocks of marble that were used for building the Duomo. Today you will find in this area boutiques, galleries, cafes, restaurants and old moored barges fitted out as bars. You can take an hour long boat tour along the canal during the summer months. The boats depart every hour from Alzaia Naviglio Grande 4 which will cost around €12.
For information about the canal tours visit the following websites at: http://www.naviglilombardi.it (in Italian only) and
For booking tickets: http://ecomm.autostradale.it/Default.aspx?TipoRicerca=par&Area=11

Traveller's Tip

Take a walk down Vicolo dei Lavandai which you will find off Alzaia Naviglio Grande to see where women used to wash their family’s clothes with water from the canal. Along here as well are some iron pedestrian bridges and the small church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Naviglio.
  • On the last Sunday of each month a market is held along the Alzaia Naviglio Grande. The market is an antiques market for furniture, objects for the home, old books, jewellery and lots more with over 400 stalls. Some of the traders own shops here.