As many may be aware of, last year the city of Milan hosted the important exhibition EXPO 2015 from the beginning of May through the end of October. To prepare for the increased international attention the city would receive during the several months it hosted this world’s fair, many projects were completed throughout Milan. These projects included not only the construction of the area in which the EXPO itself was to be held, but also the completion of the third stage of Milan’s newest metro line (which now runs from Porta Garibaldi train station to San Siro Stadium) and the restructuring of Milan’s ancient port known as the Darsena.
Thanks to an extensive canal system known as the navigli, Milan was once a city that rested on water. In their heyday, the navigli served to irrigate the city and to allow the transport of goods into and out of Milan. This connected the city to other parts of Lombardy such as the areas around Lake Maggiore and Lake Como helping it to become an important regional hub. As the city began to urbanize in the 1930s, the canals were eventually covered and rendered unnavigable over the course of the following decades.
Of the five original navigli, only the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese continue to operate. These two navigli are home to many restaurants and bars and for years they have been a popular spot for Milanese nightlife. The point where the two navigli intersect, known as the Darsena, is Milan’s ancient port. In contrast to Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese, the Darsena was left to deteriorate to a terrible state and was mostly avoided by locals and tourists alike until this recent restoration project was completed. Today, more than 19 million euros later, the Darsena and its surrounding neighborhood have been completely transformed, allowing it and the two remaining navigli to become one of Milan’s main social centers.
Thanks to the Darsena’s unique location and the marvelous restoration effort that was completed in April 2015, there are a wide variety of activities that both locals and tourists can engage in. Most visitors enjoy taking long walks on the wide sidewalks that run along the Darsena. Another popular activity is shopping at the numerous local shops and stands that can be found throughout the area. There is even a covered market located in nearby Piazza XXIV Maggio where many unique goods can be purchased including local culinary specialties, flowers, exotic fruits, and bicycles. Every evening, the stands of the market offer aperitivi as do the numerous bars and pubs that surround the Darsena. Foodies should take special note of the Darsena’s abundant restaurants, artisanal breweries, and street food vendors.
The Darsena hosts many unique events throughout the year. One example is the Darsena Christmas Village featuring attractions such as a 50 foot tall Christmas tree and an ice skating rink. The Darsena is also the new home of NavigaMi, an annual event held in May that celebrates boats of all types.
Ultimately the Darsena is a shining example of the positive impact EXPO 2015 has left on Milan. Even a year after its opening, tourists continue to flock to the Darsena to discover the unique spirit of Milan. Truly, EXPO 2015 and its correlated projects such as the Darsena have led to a revitalization of Milan that will continue to impact the city for years to come.