From Navigli to Sant’Ambrogio

“Pretty much everybody is convinced that Piazza Duomo has always been the center of Milan. Well, pretty much everybody is completely wrong! Think about it: Piazza Duomo was built only after the Italian Unification in 1861 … the true original center of Milan, Mediolanum, is here”. This is what we have been told by a touristic guide we met in Corso Magenta. As a matter of fact, we are in the area where the Romans, as early as 222 BC, began to lay the stones used to build roads, towers and buildings of what was, until 402 AD, the capital of the Roman Empire.

In 379 A.D. the poet Asuonio, a contemporary of St. Ambrogio, wrote: “In Milan, everything is wonderful. There is plenty of everything, countless palaces, great minds and people laughing happily”. Unfortunately, much of this beauty and of the traces left by the Romans were destroyed by the construction of the modern metropolis that has developed right above the old one. We stopped to listen to the notions the guide was giving to a group of Arab tourists and we found out that there are still some hidden places where it is possible to find some of these ancient tracks. One in particular, which we cherish above all, is the one that testifies the presence of the amphitheater, in Via De Amicis 17. Of course, you’ll need to be a bit creative to picture the amphitheater as it used to be: what’s left, in fact, is nothing but a park with some white stones aligned together, probably the foundations of the amphitheater which had to have the same measures of the Colosseo. The people described by the poet Ausonius, the ones that laugh happily, still populate this neighborhood streets, where the speed limit is 30km/h and where it is easier to get a fine that to meet the agitated crowd of other areas. Discover these alleyways with us!

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If you are in Milan on the last Sunday of the month, take a trip to the antique market on the Naviglio Pavese.
Set the alarm very early (or alternatively remember to pass by after your night out) and have breakfast in the Forno sui Navigli (Naviglio Pavese, 2) while watching the sun rising and the streets filling up with people.
Have a walk in the new boulevard built just outside St Ambrogio: sit on a bench, look at the church and enjoy the silence (and the mosquito bites).
No, don’t you ever think about it. Not even if you are drunk or you have lost a bet. You cannot swim in the Navigli. Do it, and you’ll probably come back to surface with three arms and a tail.
If you have a bike, don’t leave it on the streets but take it always with you. Otherwise, it will soon disappear and you’ll find it at the Fiera di Senigallia (that takes places every Saturday from 08.00 to 18.00) together with the other stolen specimens!
Because he can proudly exhibits the Roman ruins.
Because he still mixes up the Naviglio Pavese with the Naviglio Grande, but he decided to acknowledge his ignorance and not use Google Maps… he is sure that no matter where he goes, he will spend a joyful evening.