Friday, 4 May 2012

Giro dei Navigli (Canals of Milan) - 1

Among the items that I have brought with me for my stay in Milan is my bicycle. Having this with me in Italy was a no-brainer. I had all these ideas of riding my bike around the Pre-dolomites and Pre-alps of Veneto, Lombardy, or into Piedmont. I haven't done extensive riding in these places yet, but it's very much in the plan.
What I have done though, is to ride around the canal paths of Milan. These are routes which don't get talked about so much, but they are very much in the local cyclist's daily bread. The routes are pretty flat and so not a challenge for a new rider. They are certainly do-able even on a hybrid bike. For a club cyclist they make for good areas to time trial your way from one village to the next. They stretch quite a long way out, and you can even get to the Lakes (Maggiore, Como, Lecco) which are around 40 miles north of the city. If you go south you can get to the historic city of Pavia, about 25 miles away. And you don't do a single climb along the way! This is a joy for non climbing cyclists out there!
The Navigli are popular places to cycle and you see all types of cyclist - commuters, recreational cyclists, club riders and even pros. I saw some guys from the Lampre team riding along once - and who knows, I may even bump into one of the most famous non-climbing professionals, Mario Cipollini! Whatever your two-wheeled persuasion, the Navigli have something for everyone.
If you want to go south of Milan into the Pavese area try out this circuit, which goes down the Naviglio Grande to Abbiategrasso, continues along to Pavia via the Naviglio Bereguardo, and then back to Milan via the Naviglio Pavese. It's around 50 miles round trip and includes some pretty places en route where you can enjoy decent coffee and even ice cream. The paths are well sign-posted and tarmacced apart from a section along the Bereguardo which is a bit gravelly. The route is here
A bit of background. The Nagivli are the network of canals in the Milan area that were built between the 12th and the 15th century. The served prinicipally for trading purposes and made Milan a very important hub town for reaching other parts of Italy and Europe. Today the canals are no longer used for these purposes. The Naviglio Pavese and Naviglio Grande, which both flow into the disused harbour known as Darsena in central Milan, have been revamped with trendy bars. Nowadays these are very popular neighbourhoods for socialising and entertainment.
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