I did my Master’s degree at Bocconi University, in Milan, Italy. That was a long, long time ago and I – oddly – hadn’t been back in years.
On this first visit back, I chose to stay at a hotel in my old neighborhood – Navigli – Milan’s canal district.
Although Milan is about a two-hour drive from the sea, it was once (perhaps strangely) Italy’s third-busiest port city, with a series of canals hauling barges of goods to and from the Lombard capital.
Most of those canals have been covered up and constructed over, but they are live and well in today’s Navigli area.
Back when I was in school, this was a great place to live. It was a short distance from Bocconi, it was relatively inexpensive and it’s about a 20-minute walk from smack dab in the center of Milan – Piazza Duomo. It’s also well connected by the metro and trams. And perhaps of equal importance, it had a lively cultural life – with lots of bars and restaurants lining the canals.
I lived on the Via Magolfa, a small street connecting the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese.
The buildings in this area were adorable, but quite run down, including my fairly large but crumbling apartment.
I would imagine that one of the problem was the large number of warehouses occupied by ‘centri sociali’ – squatters, essentially.
On this visit, I saw that many of these old centers were (finally) gone and had been converted into residential areas.
The area has been gentrified considerably over the years, and the buildings – including my own – are quite beautiful.
One of the things I liked abut this area was how much it changed in the changing light and weather patterns. Milan is famous for its nebbia (fog). Although I hated it during the long, grey winter months, it could actually be quite beautiful as it cling to the water’s surface early mornings as I crossed the bridges of the Navigli to go to classes.
I loved the reflection of the buildings in the canals, the pink tinge the water took on early mornings, the ambers and gold of the evening, and the lights dotting the canals as the evening began to take form and the people began filling up the bars and restaurants. I loved jogging along here, which would have been far better now that there are more traffic restrictions in the area. I loved the area, still preserved, where the washerwomen used to sit along the banks of the canal to wash their clothes.
What can I say, except great to be back in my old hood after such a long time. I definitely won’t wait so long before visiting Milan and its Navigli again.