Milan, the moral capital of Italy, is a city of business and culture, of food and history. As Milan lays in the middle of the Pianura Padana, the Po River Valley, sea is not the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the second largest Italian city; nevertheless Milan has its own – we could say – “Little Venice”, and even its “personal” sea!
Water highways: the Navigli
The channelling of spring water in the area of the ancient Milan town dates to Roman Age.
But it is in the Middle Age, from XII Century, that the development of the Navigli system starts.
The purpose of the project is of a military nature, in the context of the war between the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the Italian Comuni, the independent city – states.
It is in the Renaissance that the project to transform the Navigli in a waterway system comes out, with Francesco I Sforza (1401 – 1466), Duke of Milan. Leonardo da Vinci too will be involved in the project for a while.
The project is extremely ambitious and it will be developed until 1819.
Meanwhile everything had changed: the industrial revolution needed – and developed – faster ways to move goods and people, so in 1928 the covering of the Navigli starts in the city, for hygienic reasons and to make space for roads and cars.
But a little jewel of the “Milan on the waters” is still visible and enjoyable: the Darsena (the docks).
Not far from the beautiful Sant’Ambrogio Basilica, the early medieval church which is one of the symbols of Milan, the Darsena area is a sort of Venice – style corner in the city center, with nice bars, restaurants and awesome gelaterie (ice-cream parlours).
But if you are surprised by the news that a city in the middle of a plain has its docks, what about the fact that the very same city has its own “sea”..?
Idroscalo: the little sea of Milan
The Idroscalo is an artificial lake opened in 1930 as a base for seaplanes. It is now a park property of the Milan province (the Italian “provincia” is an administrative division comparable to the county). So it is possible to enjoy water skiing, sailing and kayaking in Milan! The Idroscalo park has also bars and restaurants and, since 1965, an amusement park.