a mini travel guide to the navigli, milan

Alzaia Naviglio Grande

I just recently returned from my bi-yearly buying trip to Milan. I stay in what I like to think is a non-Milan neighborhood called the Navigli. When most people think of Milan, they think of chic shopping on Via Monte Napoleone, gazing the glass tiles of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II or touring the majestic and iconic Duomo. Don’t get me wrong, I like to do these things too. But I am most at home in the Navigli district. And though it’s mostly known for its late night activities. I like to experience it in the late afternoons and early evenings before the crowds of twenty-somethings take over the neighborhood bars.

Being a small business owner myself, I like to support small local businesses, whether I am Seattle or in another city. The Navigli is a neighborhood of hard working small establishments that are offering independent goods and experiences. Here is a very small guide on what to see, drink and eat while visiting this burrow of Milan.The easiest way to get there is to take Milan’s “Metropolitana” subway. Take the green line towards Abbiategrasso/Assago and get off at Porta Genova.

Map of Navigli

Start off your visit with a late lunch or an afternoon coffee at one of the many cafes along the Naviglio Grande. I particularly like to have lunch at L’Altro Luca e Andrea. A small cafe with delicious homemade pasta. Weather permitting, sit outside where you can watch the locals sipping their espressos or taking afternoon strolls.

When you finish lunch, walk along the Naviglio Grande. Ripa di Porta Ticinese and Alzaia Naviglio Grande are the two main roads in the Navigli. Pop into the bookstores, vintage furniture and clothing shops that flank both sides of the canal.

If you happen to be there during the flea market, you have hit the jackpot! Both sides of the canal are filled with over 400 vendors selling their antique and vintage collections. A must see occurrence that happens every last Sunday of the month.

The adjoining streets to the Naviglio Grande have some fun little independent designer shops and boutiques too. Along Via Corsico, a new discovery for me was a small little gallery shop called Brandstorming. This little shop features local artists who use found objects and recycled materials to create unique jewelry and gifts.

If you have room in your suitcase, check out and do not miss La Vineria on Via Casale. A wine distillery that makes and bottles there own wine blends. They also bottle olive oil which is my favorite thing to bring home. No room in your suitcases? You can still buy a bottle of wine and drink it in front of the shop. Feel like having a little treat? The Gelateria Orso Bianco up and across the street has wonderful organic frozen treats.

Walk around the corner back towards the subway station and you’ll find a main street called Via Vigevano. Here is where I found two new places that I had never ventured into before. Garden K and Taglio.

First a little bit about Garden K. This is a women’s clothing and accessories boutique with a taste between retrò and eastern, both in furnishing and in the choice of clothes for sale. Eunji Koo and Jim Christopher Nedd stock this little gem with an eclectic mix of modern independent designers and the boutique itself feels welcoming and warm. I really didn’t want to leave.

Alright, all this walking and shopping for the past couple of hours has probably made you hungry, right? On the other side of the street is a coffee bar/salumi/food emporium/restaurant called Taglio. If you truly want a warm casual environment and a fabulous meal, go here! The kitchen works magic from locally grown and seasonal ingredients and the wait staff is helpful and friendly. The wine selection by the glass is the best in the city. Do not skip desert or the coffee. Everything is made in-house and it is so good, that I may have to eat here every night the next time I’m in town just so I can try every dish.

Not into having a 3-course meal or feeling just a little peckish? Well, you are in luck because Milan is the city of happy hour fare and the Navigli district has some of the best. Walk back towards Alzaia Naviglio Grande and head over one of the walking bridges to the other side of the canal. Walk straight to the Mag Cafe on Ripa di Porta Ticinese. One of my favorite watering holes for inventive cocktails and a yummy charcuterie plate. Is the Mag bar too packed? Go next door to Pigato for equally delicious food and drinks. You might not even need dinner after this stop.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to go to Milan, go visit the Navigli district. You will have a far better Italian city experience away from the tourist traps of the Duomo. Go escape the crowds and live the “dolce vita ” of the Milanese for one afternoon. Saluti!

 Thank you as always for stopping by our little blog. Have a great rest of the week! xo ~ Maggie

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