One of the hippest areas of Milan is the Navigli, located around the city’s two canals and lined with a bewildering number of cafes, bars, shops, galleries, pizzerias, gelaterias, book stores and music shops. There are also souvenir vendors, musicians, street art, boat rides, regular flea markets and depending on the time of day, crowds of people.
I’ve spent the last several days getting to know Milan’s Navigli District. I love the walkability and intimacy of it. I can only fall in love with a place if I can get to know it while walking along narrow streets.
Milan has grand boulevards, monuments, dramatic architecture and world-class museums of course. But this is my favorite part of the city. Here are some of my favorite spots for eating, shopping and exploring in Milan’s Navigli district.
The Davide Gatto boutique is a little slice of chic heaven. Davide spent the first part of his career working alongside creative directors and craftsmen at some of the major fashion brands but in 2012 he set out on his own.
His boutique is filled with his incredibly-designed purses and luggage, as well as vintage kimonos re-tailored as boho wedding dresses and jackets, vintage eyewear, antique drawings and various objets bizarres set up in creative vignettes in corners and on the floor.
Davide himself is friendly and passionate about his work. He reminds me of a younger, sexier Alan Cumming. And his designs are sheer perfection.
The leather is the softest you will ever feel. Bags, like the one below, are made of one length of hide, with well-thought-out compartments built into the interior. The sides can be folded in or out, depending on how you need to use the bag, and it comes with a cross-body/shoulder strap as well as lady-like handles.
Davide’s pieces are pricey – and worth every single penny. You can see the expert craftsmanship that goes into each piece. In the shop, you can even get a glimpse into his creative process.
Start saving before you go – because you’re definitely going to want to come home with one of these pieces of fashion art! The shop is located at Alzaia Naviglio Grande 10, right on the canal and in the center of all the action that is Milan’s Navigli District.
Across the Canal Grande is a Vintage Clothing shop called Reruns Strascé, which is so overloaded with goodies that everything spills out into the street. You could spend hours browsing here.
And I love this piece of street art. What a welcoming front door!
Nearby is Erboteca, a shop where you can buy bulk herbs, essential oils, natural cosmetics and more – and grap a cup of freshly-made tisane to go.
Around the corner and off the canal, you’ll find “I See” – a fabulous optical shop with a current window display in which eyewear has been given names, such as “the intellectual”, “the vegetarian” and more…
There’s also a boutique featuring casual, customizable bags, wooden phone cases and more by a young female design duo. The shop is called “IF” – their website is www.ifbags.it.
And a chic boutique called Garden K is close by as well, but it was sadly closed by the time I got there!
And then there’s this cafe…
I didn’t get the name – but the art on the wall made me laugh as I walked by. “House Music”. I love it!
Naturally, all this shopping and walking is going to make you hungry and thirsty. There’s a new opportunity for eating and drinking every few yards, so this won’t be a problem.
I enjoyed a long lunch at Officina12, which connects to Gin012, Milan’s first gin bar. I didn’t have gin. I did have a glass of house white wine to accompany my salmon tartare with almonds, berries and citrus creme. The restaurant is located at Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 12.
A few blocks away is Tizzy’s NY Bar & Grill. I found this one by mistake. Frankly, I was surprised by how many American-themed restaurants I saw in Milan and I didn’t have an urge to visit one. After five weeks in Italy, I have been thoroughly enjoying eating what I can’t get at home.
But most places close at around 3:00 and don’t reopen until 7:30 or so. I was hungry at the wrong time of day – so I went into Tizzy’s and found that their kitchen was still open. Everything was so delicious, Mr. H and I ended up coming here twice. Tizzy’s has salads, grilled cheese sandwiches, veggie burgers, turkey burgers and a long list of cheeseburgers. The french fries are fabulous!
On the same side of the canal is Cioccolati Italiani – and this place is not to be missed. I had a crepe, filled with rich dessert creme and amarena cherries, drizzled with chocolate and folded into an ice cream cone. Unbelievably good!
Around every corner there is something new to look at, buy or eat…
There’s even the Happy Boat, if you want to explore by water…
And as the sun begins to set, the crowds start to come out – and you can expect the party to last until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. during the week, and well into daybreak on the weekends.
If you’re visiting Milan, make time for the Naviglio – its the best part of town!