In its heyday, canals formed a 150 km network that connected the city of Milan to the rivers and lakes in the Lombardian region. The canals were used for irrigation providing the city with water and transport for people and goods to and from remote areas as far as the Alps and the sea via the river Po. The marble used for the construction of the Duomo was transported via these waterways from the Lago Maggiore to the center of the city. Thanks to this network of canals, Milan had one of the country’s largest inland ports, La Darsena, despite the absence of a main river. The canals were a large part of the urban fabric of the city. Two of the 3 remaining canals, the Naviglio Grande and Naviglio Pavese join at the Darsena, a 750 meter (2460 ft) long bassin that formed the heart of the old port.
The redevelopment of Milan’s city harbor will be one of the Expo Milano projects to leave a legacy for Milan and Lombardy. Its reconstruction, with a cost of approx 19 million Euros, will restore to the City its harbor and an historical, symbolic site in Milan. The project, developed by architects Edoardo Guazzoni, Paolo Rizzatto, Sandro Rossi and Studio Bodin & Associés, foresees restyling of the port and the redefinition of adjacent public spaces. The operation consists of renovating the banks of the Darsena with new pedestrian areas and a new waterfront for tourist boat trips, plus the redevelopment of Piazza XXIV Maggio, which will be almost completely pedestrianized and planted with green areas. New tree-lined walks are planned on both sides of the dock, while on the western edge of the basin a garden will be developed that leads down to the water’s edge. Thanks to the project, important findings, such as a fifteenth-century bridge, the remains of the Conca di Viarenna and the foundations of the sixteenth century city walls, found during archaeological excavation and survey, have been preserved and enhanced.
The masterplan was developed to ensure continued public and urban use of the areas, a space has been created along the northern bank of the dock, creating a new pedestrian walkway connecting the south and north banks. The former site of the city market was demolished and replaced by a new structure, built next to Viale D’Annunzio playing an important role between the pedestrian areas along the banks and Piazza XXIV Maggio, where a newly refurbished portion of corso del Ticinello has been reopened and enhanced. There will be newly paved areas and a redefinition of the south bank (along Viale Gorizia) and north bank (along Viale D’Annunzio) of the harbor and the formation of a working dock on the south bank next to the western edge of the area. There is also a garden that descends to the level of the water, on the former site of the restaurant Bobino.
During Milan’s “Salone del Mobile” – April 14 – 19, Navigli Lombardi, the company which promotes and enhances the culture and tourism of Milan’s canal system, will host floating platforms along Naviglio Grande where they are organising a series of events with the Chamber of Commerce of Como. During EXPO from May – October 2015 there will be a total of 7 floating platforms (4 in Naviglio Grande and 3 in Darsena) hosting a program of events with different departments of Lombardy Region as part of the “EXPO in Città” program.