Map of Zumpahuacan for 77 1 THE NAVIGLI MILAN MILAN’S CANALS Canals play an important part in the history of Milan and hold a special place in the hearts of the Milanese. Comparisons with Amsterdam and Venice seem improbable these days, but less than fifty years ago the city was still a viable port and only one hundred years ago, several of the main arteries including Via Senato and Via San Marco were busy waterways. Rivers and canals still run under much of Milan and there are ghostly reminders in the names of streets and alleyways, such as the Conca del Naviglio (canal basin) in the south, the Tombone di San Marco (St Mark’s lock) in Brera and Via Laghetto (the pool or wharf where the Duomo building materials arrived by canal), near the Ospedale Maggiore. There is much talk of uncovering the city’s old canals as a nostalgic nod to the time when Milan was a great military and manufacturing power, although in reality it is little more than political posturing. HISTORY The first section of the canal system was started in the eleventh century and was gradually developed and added to over the centuries to enable Milan to become one of the most important ports in the country, despite its inland position. The process of covering over the canals began in the 1930s to make way for the city’s trams and trolley buses. By the mid-1970s, only the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese, to the south of the city, were left in the centre; the last working boat plied the waters in 1977. Milan is surrounded by rivers and it was only logical for the city’s powers to want to harness these natural resources for both trade and military purposes. In the twelfth century, the first canals connected irrigation channels and the various defensive moats of the city. Map of Zumpahuacan 2016.
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