Naviglio Grande

Explore this historic neighbourhood in Milan, Italy, and you'll uncover a treasure trove of exciting shopping, food and nightlife—both ancient and decidedly modern.

Dec 6, 2010
  • Milan is full of charming streets, buildings and historic homes, but the balconies that line the Naviglio Grande have arguably one of the best spots in the entire city. Just imagine yourself waking to a sunny Italian morning with the vibrant energy of the Naviglio right at your doorstep.
  • With an estimated 228 restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs concentrated in this small area, the choices of where to have a drink or a meal are seemingly endless. Bars like this one are open for the afternoon “aperitivo,” a classic Italian tradition.
  • Il Forno dei Navigli bakery produces delicious chocolate croissants, cakes, pies, meringues, foccacia and then some, truly living up to its name, which means “Navigli’s Oven.” During the summer, the shop is open late into the night to satisfy the sweet tooth of passers-by.
  • Tiziano Reversi, a master of the “art of the chisel,” can be seen working in his goldsmith shop on the Naviglio Grande. Inspired by Christian-Roman art and Celtic symbolism, Reversi is just one of the many talented craftsmen that call the canal home.
  • A quiet moment on the Naviglio Grande on a Sunday morning shows an entirely different side of the storied waterway. As the morning light trickles onto the flowing water below, the buildings seen in it as mere reflections have an almost otherworldly quality, reminiscent of long ago.
  • During the summer, you can catch all kinds of activity on the Naviglio, such as the annual StraNavigli water race. This is a new event for Milan, and “boats” of all descriptions are invited to participate—even those that are seemingly improbable.
  • Pizzeria Naturale uses only the freshest ingredients to make their signature organic pizzas. Baked in a traditional wood stove, these pies are as savoury as they are good for you. This pizzeria isn’t just about pizza, though—it also offers delicious desserts and other classic Italian dishes.
  • The Navigli District is also home to one of Milan’s most famous Roman ruins, the Colonne di San Lorenzo. Tram tracks pass  beside the ancient columns that sit in front of the Basilica di San Lorenzo and invite you to take a tour around the city that for a time was the capital of the Roman Empire.
  • You’ll find some high-quality salami, cheese and a large selection of wines to try at La Vineria wine bar. La Vineria also sells bulk wine and olive oil from all over Italy, and its busy streetside café is perfect for people-watching.
  • A shop window in the Navigli District reflects the area’s love for design. High-end shops, antique markets and the numerous cafés and restaurants attract thousands of visitors every day with their charm and uniqueness.
  • The peak hour on the Naviglio Grande is in the late afternoon on the weekend. As the sun begins to set, people come out in anticipation of the evening ahead, but before they do, the calm beauty of the canal can be mesmerising.
1/11
Milan is full of charming streets, buildings and historic homes, but the balconies that line the Naviglio Grande have arguably one of the best spots in the entire city. Just imagine yourself waking to a sunny Italian morning with the vibrant energy of the Naviglio right at your doorstep.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
2/11
With an estimated 228 restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs concentrated in this small area, the choices of where to have a drink or a meal are seemingly endless. Bars like this one are open for the afternoon “aperitivo,” a classic Italian tradition.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
3/11
Il Forno dei Navigli bakery produces delicious chocolate croissants, cakes, pies, meringues, foccacia and then some, truly living up to its name, which means “Navigli’s Oven.” During the summer, the shop is open late into the night to satisfy the sweet tooth of passers-by.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
4/11
Tiziano Reversi, a master of the “art of the chisel,” can be seen working in his goldsmith shop on the Naviglio Grande. Inspired by Christian-Roman art and Celtic symbolism, Reversi is just one of the many talented craftsmen that call the canal home.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
5/11
A quiet moment on the Naviglio Grande on a Sunday morning shows an entirely different side of the storied waterway. As the morning light trickles onto the flowing water below, the buildings seen in it as mere reflections have an almost otherworldly quality, reminiscent of long ago.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
6/11
During the summer, you can catch all kinds of activity on the Naviglio, such as the annual StraNavigli water race. This is a new event for Milan, and “boats” of all descriptions are invited to participate—even those that are seemingly improbable.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
7/11
Pizzeria Naturale uses only the freshest ingredients to make their signature organic pizzas. Baked in a traditional wood stove, these pies are as savoury as they are good for you. This pizzeria isn’t just about pizza, though—it also offers delicious desserts and other classic Italian dishes.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
8/11
The Navigli District is also home to one of Milan’s most famous Roman ruins, the Colonne di San Lorenzo. Tram tracks pass beside the ancient columns that sit in front of the Basilica di San Lorenzo and invite you to take a tour around the city that for a time was the capital of the Roman Empire.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
9/11
You’ll find some high-quality salami, cheese and a large selection of wines to try at La Vineria wine bar. La Vineria also sells bulk wine and olive oil from all over Italy, and its busy streetside café is perfect for people-watching.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
10/11
A shop window in the Navigli District reflects the area’s love for design. High-end shops, antique markets and the numerous cafés and restaurants attract thousands of visitors every day with their charm and uniqueness.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi
11/11
The peak hour on the Naviglio Grande is in the late afternoon on the weekend. As the sun begins to set, people come out in anticipation of the evening ahead, but before they do, the calm beauty of the canal can be mesmerising.
Photography Andrea Pistolesi

You would hardly know it today, but Milan was once a city filled with canals. It started in 1158 when a moat of sorts was dug around the border, and over the next few centuries that moat spawned into an entire network of waterways connecting the landlocked city to the sea. Most of these canals are now covered by concrete, but the Naviglio Grande remains, a testament to the old Milan that is breathing new life into a beautiful, ancient district with understated, modern style. From streetside cafés to bookshops to restaurants to busy nightclubs, the Navigli District that surrounds the historic waterway is full of unexpected delights.


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