Italy: Navigating Navigli

The libraries in Milan are closed on Sunday, so to take a break from midterm studying, I embraced the warm weather and went shopping. The last Sunday of every month, the Navigli neighborhood near my home hosts a vintage market. “Naviglio” actually means canal in Italian, which is an accurate descriptor for this area.

Milan’s canals were initially constructed in the 12th century to connect Milan to Lake Como and Switzerland, but today most of the canals in the city have been paved over to accommodate for traffic. I love living a five-minute walk away from this charming area, but the mosquito bites really bug me (pun intended).

The vintage market hosts around 400 stalls, focusing primarily on high-quality antique finds. This was certainly no Goodwillー every other clothing stall seemed to have Gucci. I hardly accessorize apart from scarves, and I was able to find a gorgeous, locally-made painted silk scarf for 20 euros.

The stalls also contained all the paintings, mirrors, and home decor that my heart could desire. I am considering moving here permanently just to furnish my home with the finds from this market.

I met up with friends from Japan and Korea, and we explored the jewelry stalls together. After an hour of digging through racks of clothes, we popped our heads into a courtyard and found that a local community center had set up an outdoor cafeteria. I got an order of polpette (meatballs) along with a panzerotto (think of a fried calzone), while my friend opted for risotto, a Milanese specialty.

One of the things that feels most challenging about studying abroad is finding a sense of community. Here, my stomach and my heart became full as I saw families gathered for lunch, with kids running around in the sun with their grandparents looking over them. It felt like home.

Even if I didn’t buy anything, I still think this afternoon was one of my best experiences in Milan so far. Walking along the cobblestone while crowded alongside people speaking at least five different languages reminded me of why I chose Milan in the first place.

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