At 10:15 last night, I stepped out the front gate from the public courtyard of my apartment complex and headed north along the canal for a couple-mile walk.
I crossed over the small foot bridge near my place, then glanced over and noticed a couple of older women sitting out on their second floor balcony, also enjoying the evening.
The place was hoppin’. Milano has turned warm and humid and the evenings are for socializing. It’s the “passeggiata”, the walk through town to see and be seen. It’s the social hour… the pre- or post-meal digestif… the expression of social position… the time to hypothesize, criticize or seal-the-deal… the time to procaim romantic status, whether available or not.
Thousands of people were out strolling with friends, seated at sidewalk tables, riding their bikes or standing at the canal balustrade with a glass of wine or beer, chatting. It’s the thing to do here. It’s part of the day’s fabric in Italy. (Balmy evenings certainly encourage the outdoor visitin’, but I saw this in the middle of winter, too, just without the number of outdoor tables.)
I live in the “Zona Navigli”, the Canal Zone, (approximately where the number 1 is on the map below). (Naviglio means one canal, roughly pronounced “nah-VEE-lio”. Navigli is plural.) Each time I’ve been living/staying in Milano it’s been in this neighborhood. Though the broad area around and including Milano has a series of inter-connected canals – which Leonardo da Vinci played a part in devising – the neighborhood IN the city is referred to as the “Navigli” and includes the triangular area between the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese, and areas closely adjoining these two canals.
When I lived here for 14 months, I rode my bike several times a week south along the Naviglio Pavese, then west into the farmland. I’ve been on my bike as far south as Pavia, as far west as Abbiategrasso and as far east at Trezzo Sull’Adda. (Click on the map for a larger view.) Note the locations of Lago (Lake) Maggiore and Lago di Como up north. I’ve been told of bike routes from Milano up to the lakes, but have not been fortunate enough to ride them. “Fiume”, by the way, means river.
The Zona Navigli is a pretty “hip, young, creative” neighborhood, with schools in the area, and one of Milano’s design hub areas. At canalside, one finds art galleries and antique shops, used books stores, gelaterie, pizzarie and every other sort of place to get a bite to eat. It’s also one of Milano’s Happy Hour Aperitivo hot spots. Eight euros will get you a drink and food from the buffet table. (It can be a cheap dinner, but if you want one more glass of wine or beer, you pay the 8 euros again.)
This first video was shot at the junction of the north-south Naviglio Pavese, (along which is located my casa) and the east-west Naviglio Grande. Listen to the voices, the street noise, the general hub-bub. Note, also, that there are two local police officers there if needed.
People have asked me whether I feel safe out walking around so late. Tell me, does it LOOK like danger? I’m appropriately aware and vigilant, but I think the evening crowds are a lot like bees when they’re swarming: they’re not interested in stinging, they only care about following the queen. In this situation, people are just relaxed, talking and people-watching. There are likely some on the prowl for theft or mischief, but I never sense any red flags rising.
Here’s a second video taken just a few feet away from the first, looking at the display case of the pastry shop open late to satisfy a sweet tooth.
This second video shows a 180 degree view, which looks down the Naviglio Grande, then scans the large, stone-paved street. Note the wide flat barge-type tour boat in the middle of the canal.
At the point where I turn around in my walking loop, there’s a building with highly stylized graffiti lettering. It’s been there for a number of years, but still pleases my eye with its character. “No name, no fame. No?”
There are a couple of foot bridges the cross over the Naviglio Grande in this stretch closest to town. In this third video, I’m standing on the second bridge, giving a full look around. By this time it was almost 11:00 pm.
I was amused by the music being broadcast across the canal from the small trattoria on the other side.