Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Milan Navigli Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.62 km (3.5 miles), terrain flat

Milano running routes:
Milan Centro Storico old town loop
Milan Navigli canal route

For more running routes, see Route List.

Here's a run that takes you from the center of Milan (the piazza in front of the Duomo cathedral) to the lively Navigli neighborhood and back.

The Navigli are a network of canals that connect Milano with the Mediterranean coast. Once upon a time, the canals wound their way all through the town, but most of them have been filled in during the last century. But a few of them, southwest of the center, have persevered, and the canal-side location has spawned a fun- and not-too-expensive night-life scene.

Most people that head for Navigli are students on a budget, and the bars, restaurants and clubs have developed around this clientele: hip, low-budget and fun.

So, if you want to get to know this interesting side of town, let's just head out on this short evening route!

As I mentioned, we'll start in the center of Milano's universe, the square out front of the Duomo.

The Duomo
The Piazza del Duomo is filled with action, day and night: tourists gawking at the cathedral's newly restored pink-marble facade, and the surrounding buildings like the old royal palace, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Museo del Novocento. Hundreds of street hustlers will also be working the crowd: Africans selling arm-bands, Morroccans selling hash, and in the evening the night-shift is filled by Asians selling roses and glowing toys that fly into the night sky.

There are also plenty of demonstrations that take place here, too, so you will probably see one or two during any given week.

Turn south, with the cathedral to your left. Head straight between the twin buildings marking the Museo del Novecento, heading towards the green Piazza Armando Diaz, with its silver metallic dolphin sculpture.

Stay on the left side of the square and continue along Via Baracchini the two blocks until it runs into busy Via Larga. Look to the right and you'll see the strange 1950s-era high-rise, Torre Velasca. It's hard to decide: is it ugly or beautiful...
Torre Velasca building
Cross Via Larga and continue southwards along Via Chiaravalle. You'll see the ancient university building straight ahead, Ca Granda. It was a hospital for the poor in the middle-ages. Its facade is amazingly detailed. There is also a nice little triangular park out front.

Turn right and run along the Ca Granda facade and then past the following church, San Nazaro Maggiore. Follow the little alley that leads directly along the church facade and comes out on the next street, Corso di Porta Romana.
Ca Granda: Milan's university
Run to the left past the churchyard and the church's never-finished front facade: it must be wating for someone to finish it for about 400 years already.

At the next intersection, turn right to cross the street and then take that little lane diagonally to the left, Via San Calimero. In a block, you'll pass the San Calimero church and then the street opens into a modern triangular piazza. At the round-about at the far end of the piazza, turn right on Via Giuseppe Mercalli, and run westwards for three blocks, until it ends at Corso Italia.

Turn left here and then right at the first corner in just a few meters, at Via Cosimo del Fante. Just run straight west for another three blocks until you run right into the Parco delle Basiliche (basilica park). This nice, green neighborhood-hangout is always full of people relaxing and enjoying the landscaped oasis. It stretches from San Lorenzo basilica at the north end to Sant Eustorgio basilica in the south. San Lorenzo incorporates building-pieces going back to Roman days.
Heading south through Parco Basiliche
Turn left and run south through the park, and the path ends by running into Via Santa Croce, where you turn right and and follow the curve past Sant Eustorgio and a line of restaurants along the left side, with outdoor seating along the churchyard.

You have now run straight into the Corso di Porta Ticinese. Turn to the left and you'll see how the street opens up into a big intersection at the Piazza 24 Maggio (24th of May), with its giant grey gateway dominating the center of the square. The gateway was the earlier toll-gate for people entering the city from the south.
Piazza 24 Maggio with the old toll-gate
You have now reached the Navigli area. The square was once one of the canals, but was long ago filled-in and turned into a busy street.

Run through the Piazza 24 Maggio and then turn right. You'll pass the Darsena (harbor basin) on the right. It seems a bit forlorn and purposeless at the moment, and half of it has been dried out and is used for flea-markets.

On the left you'll see the first real canal stretch to the south. This is the Naviglio Pavese. There are a few floating restaurants in the canal, and a few other clubs in the adjoining houses, but this canal isn't as lively as Naviglio Grande, so we'll keep running another 50 meters straight west.
Naviglio Pavese
Naviglio Grande leads westwards from the Darsena, and is lined by two narrow streets. We'll just run up the south one for a while, cross the canal and then run back along the north bank. This area is lined with bistros, bars and shops catering for the student-crowd that meets here every evening. This is my kind of area: creative, a bit anarchic and not too expensive.
Naviglio Grande in the evening
Run west along the south bank for about 350 meters until you get to the second little pedestrian bridge. Cross over to the north side and run back to the Darsena.

Now run back to the Piazza 24 Maggio and turn north to run straight up the Corso di Porta Ticinese. There are also a lot of cool shops and hangouts along this street.

Running north along the Corso di Porta Ticinese
In a half-kilometer, you'll come to the old Porta Ticinese, where the medieval city walls once encircled the south end of the city. 
The medieval Porta Ticinese
The gate is still standing, and right behind it you'll find one of the most relaxed hangouts in the city, the piazza in front of San Lorenzo basilica. Another horde of students meets here in the evenings to chat, eat and drink in an easy-going get-together.
Piazza del San Lorenzo: here's the place to spend time with friends
There is a line of ancient Roman columns along the front of the piazza, and a statue of Emperor Constantine. The basilica behind it is Byzantine in style, modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, with a domed central area.

Now you just follow the Corso northwards, along the tram tracks. The street merges into Via Torino as it curves to the right and heads northeast for 700 meters back to the Piazza del Duomo.