On no discernable evening of the week the youthful crowds of Milan gather on both banks of the Naviglio Grande, and once you arrive, it’s easy to see why. Known for its canals, all-night bars that spill onto the streets and unmatchable aperitivo credentials, the Navigli district has everything anyone wanting to socialise could wish for. The dress code may be more relaxed down here, but the erudite galleries and shops give this place a cultured feel, making it much more than just a bacchanalian hub.
100 years ago this was the haunt of the post-Renaissance artsy set, but the canals fell into disuse in the 1920s and the WW2 bombing meant that the area, like much of the city, needed rebuilding. However in the last few years gentrification projects have shed new light on the Navigli district. Its tangled, cobblestone streets, which taper off from the main canal, are perfect for an early evening passeggiata followed by seasonal aperitivo and artistic cocktails.
A seasoned professional in the panorama of cocktail bars that line the Navigli, Rita is a hole-in-the-wall where the cocktails take centre stage. Approach the menu with care, the mixologists treat each drink as a creative project and the results are surprisingly delectable. www.facebook.com/RitaCocktails
Carlo e Camilla in Segheria
Carlo e Camilla in Segheria
With its post-industrial meets traditional interior you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a warehouse space, and not the brainchild of one of Milan’s best-known chefs. Serving up refined, classical food in a unique setting, this luxurious place is a restorative break from the norm. www.carloecamillainsegheria.it
Chef Matias Perdomo, formerly of Michelin-starred restaurant Il Pont de Ferr, has teamed up with Thomas Piras and Simon Press to create a truly memorable culinary experience. The gastronomically minded trio seeks out the best raw ingredients each morning in order to develop unique, contrasting combinations of flavour and form that prove to be a feast for all the senses. Give the chef a carte blanche by choosing the tasting menu, Riflesso. www.contrastemilano.it
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The Darsena © Claudio Vignola
Navigli’s most recent addition, the Darsena – in ancient times the city’s harbour – has become the hot spot for southern Milan’s residents. From sanguine afternoons to late nights this lively open-air space on the banks of the canal hosts all manner of pop-ups, late nights bars and restaurants.
Step away from the crowds and into the tranquil space of Garden K, a boutique that brims unique pieces, all personally selected by (owner )South Korean owner Ennji Koo who has found a perfect equipoise between modern and retro fashions.
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This garden restaurant is a bit out of the way, but definitely worth the effort. Escape the city to enjoy delicious dishes (including brunch) made with freshly picked ingredients in profoundly relaxed surroundings. www.erbabrusca.it
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This small yet perfectly formed retro-styled restaurant is just steps away from the main drag. The Sardinian and Portuguese-inspired dishes include fantastic braised octopus and salted cod. And don’t forget to finish your meal with a mirto. cucinafusetti.blogspot.com
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With a warm Belle Époque interior, scattered trinkets, wine displays, vagabond staff and background jazz, MAG is more reminiscent of a 19th century Parisian café than a fashionable Milanese haunt. Somehow it manages to be both. With the best mixologists in town, on-Navigli location and late night opening, this is perfect place to finish a night. www.facebook.com/MAG-cafe
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Another must for cocktail connoisseurs; each drink is lovingly prepared and served with a dish of aperitivo in the evenings. Located just off Naviglio Grande, the bar attracts an early crowd eager to utilise the outside space, which is perfect for cool evenings. ugobar.it
One of Milan’s ‘gin bars’ that also offers a great cocktail and tapas list, this chameleon haunt is constantly reinventing itself and its menus. With late night DJs, this is the perfect place to head to after an aperitivo. www.elita.it