Monday, 28 May 2012

Giro dei Navigli (Canals of Milan) - 2

Last time I wrote about the canals of Milan it was about the Naviglio Grande, the canal that leads from the Darsena channel out towards Abbiategrasso and then North to Lake Maggiore. I spend alot of time on this waterway as it is within five minutes of where I live. I ride along it to get to work, I go running along the canal, and when it comes to weekend drinks this place is a no-brainer given the number of bars and restaurants. And after a night out it's easy to stumble home without worrying about catching trams or taxis.
This time I will focus on the Naviglio Martesana - the canal which starts from near Milan's Central Station and heads north-west towards Bergamo and Lecco. This is a little bit out of my zone as it is to the North of the city. It takes around half an hour to cycle to the start of the canal.

The Naviglio Martesana has a different feel to the Naviglio Grande. There are no bars at all along here. You just see the backs of people's houses and urban parks, some adorned with residential tower blocks. If drawing comparisons with south London, you basically see a bit of Dulwich, and a bit of Peckham along this section! In any case, you get a good slice of what life is like in Milan.

If there's one thing I also know about the people in that part of Milan it is that they like their sport. Lots of people are out rollerblading, playing football, running and cycling - people of all shapes, sizes and ages are active. The whole family may be out cycling, including the 3-year-old on stabilisers. If you are too young to ride a bike you end up either going on a special child's seat attached to your parent's bike, or being seated in a specially constructed carriage that is attached to the front or back of your parent's bike. People learn about cycling at an early age here!

The other thing that people are into - at least the authorities seem to tolerate it is graffiti. There is lots of it here. This stuff would give Banksy a run for his money. There are all kinds of designs and slogans - Tags, declarations of love, and more and more with these difficult economic times, political statements. I don't know alot about TAV and Bossi, but it seems like they are not well liked in Milan if the graffitti is anything to go by!

Once across the city limits of Milan, you get to the canal proper. A sign lets you know how far it is to the various villages, which is handy. It's actually 23km to a place called Cassano d' Adda which is on the border between Milan province and Bergamo province. Bear in mind that it is 23km from that sign, which comes in at 5km into the canal ride. As I have an 8km ride to get from the southwest of the city up to the north-east then by the time I've done the whole journey it is 72km round trip. That makes for a pretty decent work-out as well.

Before reaching Cassano there is a series of rather picturesque villages - Cernusco sul Naviglio, which has a forest and picnic site, and then there's Gorgonzola. And don't think of finding any cheese in Gorgonzola. It's produced in Piedmont nowadays. Nevertheless Gorgonzola is a pleasant village with a 16th Century church. Some say that a piece of cheese was left in the church and that is how the town got its name. I guess no one will be eating that mouldy cheese any time soon!

After alot of rolling over very flat, easy terrain through the countryside you arrive in Cassano. Not only is it a convenient stop-off point for a picnic along the River Adda, but there is also an ice cream parlour that does very tasty gelatti. Mind you, is there a place in Italy that doesn't do nice ice cream??
Then when you're done you can either ride back, to Milan, or skip across to the nearby train station where you can be whisked back to the city.

Route map is here


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