Milan nowadays doesn’t strike the visitor for the same reason it struck its first inhabitants; it is believed, in fact, that Milan’s ancient name (Mediolanum) possibly meant “a place among rivers”, a characteristic not easy to notice now but that was until the early decades of the XX century.
Milan has many rivers running underneath that were commonly used as a transportation to facilitate commerce and communications (both inside and outside the city) since 1929 when it was decided to underground and close most of the rivers and the canals to improve the street system. The canal system (Navigli) was as well used as defensive weapon, irrigation tool, and as force to run the mills.
Today, just a small portion of the ancient network is still visible. Two of the original canals, Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese are still open and, of course, they limit the Zona Navigli, the area around them. This location is not yet among the usual suggestions but soon it’ll end up there. The renewal projects developed here helped to reshape and revitalize an area where now many cafes, stores, and restaurants are popping up, making it a great neighbourhood to spend time in. Moreover, the contrast between the new modern architectures and the classic, elegant Milan buildings create a beautiful sight.
Future looks bright for the forgotten rivers: in 2015 the body of water (Darsena) where the two Navigli meet has been restored and reopen and a plan to re-open the old canals is being discussing by the institutions and the citizens. If it’ll go through Milan landscape will change once again, with a 7,7 kilometres river crossing the city and 43 new bridges.
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