4 – Pedalling among rice fields and water meadows

Milan Naviglio Pavese – Zibido San Giacomo – San Giacomo –Tavernasco Farmstead– Tainate – Vigano Certosino –Montano Farmstead – Gaggiano – Milan via Naviglio Grande

This route is mainly on bicycle lanes, with some short stretches on the road

Take the Naviglio Pavese towpath from Piazza XXIV Maggio and ride southwards. Along the path you come to the Chiesa Rossa complex, that is, a farmstead that has been turned into a library, and a Romanesque church, at one time known as Santa Maria alle Fonti (St Mary at the Springs) because of its proximity to water springs (and connected canals). Further along you come to Conca Fallata and the old Filanda or spinning mill in Rozzano, with its water intake structures that carried water to the factory.

Continuing along the towpath you come to Moirago where you find the Salterio farmstead that houses MUSA, that is, ‘the Salterio Museum: flavours and landscape workshop’, with its specialist library and temporary exhibitions on food and landscapes. Opposite, on the other side of the Naviglio canal, is the house of the ‘guardiano idraulico‘ or canal warden, and the lock for regulating the water level.

Further along is the village of Zibido S. Giacomo and the S. Giacomo parish church, an exquisite building whose original ruins were extensively remodelled during the Renaissance period. Inside you can find frescoes along the right-hand aisle, an altar with its canary grass marble frontal, and a recently restored 16th-century wooden choir with 20 individual stalls. Another fresco depicting a haloed saint is on the bell tower wall in the sacristy. In the parvis is a serizzo granite sarcophagus that was once inside the church, the remains of the cover of another sarcophagus and a pillar commemorating the 1630 Italian Plague.

After visiting the church, leave S. Giacomo for the Tavernasco farmstead, which still preserves one of the rarest examples of water-meadow irrigation for fodder cultivation. Here, you may take part in one of the farm’s activities according to the tenants’ recommendations.

From Tavernasco, ride back across the typical Milanese countryside to Barate. Along this stretch the bicycle lane crosses estates that once belonged to the Organisation (Meraviglia di Barate and Villandolo). Once in Barate, the bicycle lane ends and from here you can take Via Francia until the set of traffic lights. Then ride along the country road until you reach the historical centre of Vigano Certosino, where you can admire the oratory of S. Ippolito frescoed by Giovanni Pietro and Aurelio Luini (1578), which was part of the grange that at one time came under the Certosa di Pavia (now private property). Beside the Certosa is the SS. Eugenio e Maria parish church, whose facade was frescoed by Bernardino De’ Rossi (mid-fifteenth century to 1513) from Pavia. Slightly further along you can find the oratory of S. Eugenio Vescovo in Sporzano.

Continuing northward, you come to the Montano farmstead, once a Benedictine convent whose assets came to ASP Golgi-Redaelli through the Quattro Marie or Four Marys charity house. This farm is specialized in rice growing, the entire work cycle being carried out on the farm. Here, at the retail outlet, you may purchase rice and honey, whereas in the rooms of the manor house you can stop and eat some typical dishes prepared by the tenant for lunch or supper.

From here, continue along the road to Gaggiano, near which the Luoghi Pii Elemosinieri or almoners’ charity houses boasted vast properties: besides Montano there is Camuzzone, Carbonizza and the 16th-century Villa Marino (formerly Palazzo Stampa Aloardi), which was bequested by priest Giovanni Aloardi (Will, 25th January, 1819).

Yet another sight worth noting on this route is the S. Invenzio sanctuary that preserves a 15th-century fresco portraying the Madonna delle Grazie col Bambino (Holy Mary of Grace with Child).

From here you can return to Milan either by train or along the Naviglio Grande towpath.

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