You’ll feel as if you were walking in Paris or Amsterdam and not on the Navigli, which usually stand for nightlife and therefore chaos. But no, you’re still in Milan although in one of the most peaceful, artistic and romantic part of the city. Here, when the washing machine was still science-fiction, girls with their shirts tied at waist-level and handkerchiefs on their heads used to kneel down to wash clothes by rubbing them vigorously on the “brellin”, the stones can still be seen today in the Vicolo.
Today, instead of the grocery store that sold the Palton, the detergent made from a mixture of ash, soap and soda, there is a bistro called El Brellin that, with its coffered ceilings, has kept intact the atmosphere of the past time. At number six, it is also possible to see a centrifuge from the early 1900s, the forerunner of the contemporary washing machine. Go there to witness a hidden Milan, perfect for postcards and, while walking down the alley, glance at the tenements that flank the canals.
These were the Milanese working-class houses, typical of the Navigli and the Isola: built around a central courtyard, they were composed of long hallways along which there were several entries to private apartments and to public toilets. We suggest you, if Lady Luck smiles at you and makes you find an open door, to creep in one of these houses and enjoy the view and the calm of their backyards.
Vicolo delle lavandaie, Vicolo Privato Lavandai, Milano, 20144 MI, Italia