If you liked Matteo’s article about Vico dei Lavandai, I’ll take you through a hidden gem located close-by: the lovely courtyards at Alzaia Naviglio 4, easily one of my favorite spots of Old Milan.
These yards host the headquarters of Associazione Naviglio Grande as well as boutiques and private residences. If you look up you’ll see the typical “case di ringhiera“, a very popular kind of housing that you can find pretty much everywhere in Milan, the ringhiera being the railing on the balcony. Each door on the balcony leads to a different apartment: there’s usually a tiny kitchen and a big bedroom, as this room would quite likely host a whole family back in the day (something that we still find quite frustrating when house-hunting today: who needs that big a bedroom?!). The beauty of it is that everyone would share water and the main spaces and every yard would be a small village within the neighborhood.
The first yard at Alzaia Naviglio Grande 4 (the red) discloses the most artistic side of Milan through its labs and boutiques; the second (the rustic yellow building) well represents the housing of Old Milan’s working class and evokes the way people used to live before “uncool” areas turned “cool”.
Fun fact: if you have the chance to travel around our region, especially among our rural villages, you’ll see a lot of buildings painted in the traditional “giallo lombardo”, Lombard yellow. That’s why many working-class houses around Milan are painted light yellow.