5 – The Navigli canals, with a difference

Abbiategrasso (by train from Milano Porta Genova) – Vermezzo – Zelo Surrigone (Merina Farmstead and its mill) – Gudo Visconti – Vigano Certosino – Montano Farmstead – Gaggiano (returning to Milan either by train or along the Naviglio Grande towpath)

This route begins in Milan, at Porta Genova railway station, where you can take your bicycle on the train and reach Abbiategrasso in just a few minutes. There you can find the Istituto Golgi, or Golgi Institute, which was built on part of the former premises of the Pia Casa degli Incurabili (charity home for the chronically sick). Near the institute is the 15th-century Annunciata convent complex, which was once a Pia Casa succursal. Thanks to its recent restoration, an important cycle of frescoes dating back to 1519 has emerged, which portrays the Storie della Vergine, or Stories of the Virgin, by painter Nicola Mangone, known also as il Moietta.

From Abbiategrasso, it’s back onto the bicycle for the first leg of the journey that takes you to Vermezzo, where you come to the Mischia irrigation ditch. This canal feeds off the Naviglio Grande canal and until the northern swathe of land around Pavia, it is one of the main watercourses for land irrigation.

Going southward, at Zelo Surrigone is the S. Galdino oratory that was founded by Bernardo and Gabriele Sala in 1418 and which preserves frescoes dating back to between the fifteenth and sixteenth century.

From Zelo, continue southward past the village of Gudo Visconti and then go eastward until you come to the village of Vigano Certosino. Here, a visit to the S. Ippolito oratory that was frescoed by Giovanni Pietro and Aurelio Luini (1578) is a must. The oratory was part of the Vigano Carthusian grange that once came under the Certosa di Pavia, as attested by the title blocks that contain GraCar, Gratiarum Carthusia in full, and which today is private property.

From Vigano, go back towards Gaggiano, where you can stop at the Montano farmstead for a short visit. This property still belongs to ASP Golgi-Redaelli and has a retail outlet where you can buy its produce. From Montano, you can then proceed along the country road to Gaggiano a short distance away until you come to the Carbonizza farmstead next to the Naviglio towpath.

From here you can take the Naviglio Grande towpath back to Milan or board a train in Gaggiano.

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