Many people don't know that Milan has canals. It's not like Venice, but the waterways were built to try to give Milan some navigable means to connect the city to Lake Como. In fact, Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza to plan the system, an attempt that ended up spanning seven centuries before being abandoned. But before that, the canals were used to bring marble from Lake Maggiore for building the majestic cathedral. The history of this grand scheme can be seen at the Museum of the Navigli.

But more than an historical folly, the Navigli are now Milano's trendiest area, sort of the "Left Bank" of the city. Along Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese you'll find a plethora of restaurants, art galleries, shops and cafes. It's especially popular at night, with twinkle lights strung along. By day, you can can take a canal boat down the waterway.

The area is centered around Porta Ticinese. This gateway was built by the Spanish in the 16th century abutting the city walls. Visit the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the foundation of which was built using blocks from the Roman amphitheater. It has a marble and mosaic-decorated interior and retains some Byzantine features of its original structure. Sixteen columns were from Roman ruins and the octagonal plan is interesting.

Walk along one bank or another of the Navigli and enjoy the atmosphere; cross over iron bridges scattered periodically to go back upstream. You'll find plenty of choice for dining, from traditional to ethnic.

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Address in Milano:

Porta Ticinese.

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