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Milan: cycling along the Navigli with Leonardo da Vinci

Cycling along the Navigli is the green idea for getting into the surroundings from the heart of Milan: here are five itineraries that also take inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci.

Cycling along the five Navigli canals is a marvellous green way to leave the heart of the city into the surrounding area and its farmhouses, noble residences, historic abbeys, parks, rural landscapes and precious testimonies of Leonardo's work: here are five complete itineraries. The final stages of the Giro d'Italia will be hosted here.

 

1. Naviglio Grande

 

Naviglio Grande, Milan - Lombardy

Naviglio Grande, Milan

The most important Naviglio Canal in Milan connects the Darsena (docks) in the heart of the city to the River Ticino. After setting off, you immediately come to the small Church of San Cristoforo and then slowly leave the city, passing through Corsico, Trezzano and Gaggiano. The colourful houses and summer residences of the ancient aristocracy overlooking the water progressively accompany the countryside of the South Milan Agricultural Park as far as Abbiategrasso, with the Basilica of Santa Maria Nuova and the former Santa Chiara monastery. The route ends here, where the canal enters the Ticino Valley Natural Park. However, it is well worth continuing on to the small and ancient village of Robecco sul Naviglio with its XVIII century quay.

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2. Alzaia Naviglio Pavese

 

Charterhouse of Pavia - Lombardy

Charterhouse of Pavia

Leaving the centre of Milan, you can cycle as far as Pavia along the Alzaia Naviglio Pavese, where several historic inns and trattorias still retain the welcoming, friendly atmospheres of the past and serve traditional Lombard cuisine. From the dock of Darsena di Porta Ticinese, the cycle path crosses the green areas of Cantalupa, Conchetta and Chiesa Rossa, characterized by the locks - famous hydraulic works by Leonardo da Vinci - as far as Assago. We then continue towards the Renaissance Charterhouse of Pavia and the beautiful historic city centre - which is definitely worth a visit.

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3. La Martesana

 

Traghetto Leonardesco, Imbersago - Lombardy

Traghetto Leonardesco, Imbersago. Photo by: Antonio Petrone / Shutterstock.com

The Naviglio della Martesana was designed by Leonardo da Vinci and connects the city with the River Adda and Lake Como. The cycle path running along it entire length starts from Milan from the characteristic Ponte delle Gabelle, where tolls were once paid to enter the city. The route then passes through some delightful towns, such as Cernusco sul Naviglio, green parks with equipped picnic areas and aristocratic out of town mansions, including Villa Borromeo in Cassano d'Adda, the final destination. You can also continue to Trezzo d'Adda and Lecco to visit Leonardo Ecomuseum, the Leonardo ferry in Imbersago and the workers' village of Crespi d'Adda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don't miss the traditional Gorgonzola Festival in the town of the same name in September.

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4. Naviglio di Bereguardo

 

Cycle path of Naviglio di Bereguardo - Lombardy

Cycle path of Naviglio di Bereguardo

The canal begins in Abbiategrasso, branching from the Naviglio Grande as far as Bereguardo, near Pavia at the confluence with the River Ticino and its valley. This cycle path here unwinds through rice paddies, crops, farmhouses and stone bridges in a peaceful agricultural landscape where the Cistercian Abbey of Morimondo is a must-see. The trip ends with the characteristic Ponte delle Barche di Bereguardo - a bridge built with wooden boats. It is well worth continuing as far as Pavia to visit the historic centre and the covered bridge over the River Ticino, the symbol of the city.

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5. Naviglio di Paderno

 

Industrial village of Crespi d'Adda - Lombardy

Industrial village of Crespi d'Adda

This is the shortest Naviglio canal and flanks the River Adda near Paderno. The trip sets off from Trezzo sull'Adda and its Visconti Castle. Passing between Leonardo's basins and old hydroelectric power stations, we reach the River Adda rapids and the “tre corni della Vergine” (three horns of the Virgin) - rocks emerging from the waters of the river which legend suggests inspired Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting of the "Virgin of the Rocks". We arrive at the tiny Sanctuary of Madonna della Rocchetta, standing on a panoramic rocky peak separating the River Adda from the Naviglio di Paderno and its imposing iron bridge. Don't miss a visit to the industrial village of Crespi d'Adda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before continuing, if you wish, to Lecco.

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