Vittorio Gargaglione – Navigli Lombardi

After years of neglect and disputes the Darsena, the dock in Milan, today shines, crowded with people and events; but the Darsena is only a small part, the terminal point of an intricate liquid network that surrounds and, secretly, crosses the city. The Navigli, the Canal System, as well as having connected Milan with the surrounding area from a military, commercial, transport and agriculture point of view for centuries, today represents a connection network between people, production firms that cooperate and interact on the same territory in order to realise a shared project. 

Vittorio Gargaglione – Navigli Lombardi

Vittorio works for Navigli Lombardi, a company established in 2006 to set up a single management entity to entrust with all the competences for the promotion and cultural and tourist development of Sistema Navigli.

Vittorio moved to Milan in 1997 to study economics at Bocconi University, after a brief working experience abroad and two years at Carrefour, he decided to make a big change in 2005, leaving his job at a multinational company for a much smaller and local reality. He participated in a selection organised by Navigli Lombardi to find a person in charge of marketing and events.

Two reasons led me to this change: the first was the search for greater freedom; before I was a number inside a structure, maybe much more solid but entirely focused on a “vertical” career. I switched to a concept of a horizontal career, where what differs are not the steps climbed but the projects that are created, scattered throughout the territory. The second reason was my always present passion for events and that working in a multinational company I was unable to pursue.

The main objective that animates the initiatives of Navigli Lombardi is to enhance, requalify and make the territory live so that Milan is in the middle of its historical vocation as a city of water.  Vittorio’s first project is Navigami.

It was six o’clock in the morning of Friday, April 30, 2010, I will always remember the thrill of looking down from the Scodellino bridge and see all the boats on display, seeing my first major event on the Navigli come real.

NavigaMI came from a series of observations and analytical reflections: firstly, the first Boat Show was organised in Milan many years ago, secondly most Italian boat licenses are in Milan, the main boat owners are in Lombardy and always in Lombardy is the highest number of small and medium companies related to the nautical sector. Seeing a canal filled with life after a long time and animated with boats and people who were there not just for a drink but to talk about navigation: this is an image I will never forget.

Two other important events that have helped shift the perspective and empower the relationship between Milan and water were the Stranavigli and the Darsena Christmas Village:

Stranavigli was a fun race on the water; this event is special to me because it seems just a ludic one but actually the scope is very important: to change people’s perception of the canal’s waters. We have been analysing the water every month for ten years, and its quality is excellent, it is not polluted. However due to a misperception by the citizens, eight years ago, on the occasion of the first edition, if was difficult for us to convince people to participate but after two or three years we obtained the registration of a thousand people diving and having fun.

Even Darsena Christmas Village changed the perception of the inhabitants of Milan, before people went to the Cathedral at Christmas and did not consider the Darsena as a place to take a walk. We took "Christmas near the water."

The Navigli are not just big events but they offer also picturesque views and a smooth mobility.

A very nice place few know is Palazzo Galloni, the Inscription Centre at number 66 of Alzaia Naviglio Grande. The building, that should be requalified, is entirely invaded by green: when we enter, maybe due to the engravers, and the people who live there and maybe for this green around us, we are transported into a very special and almost magical dimension. Another historic site is the home of the Guardian of Waters in Vaprio d'Adda, a former tollgate. The view is a classic Leonardo scenario, in this area in fact, it is said that Leonardo painted the Virgin of the Rocks.

Cycling outside Milan, where the canals run through municipalities and are an integral part of their lives, in April and May it is pleasant to lose the way among irrigation canals and fountains; with flooded rice fields it seems as if we are riding on the water and on a fine day it takes two or three hours to reach a lot of beautiful places. I am thinking about some areas between Vaprio, Cassano and Trezzo or towards Naviglio Grande, Cassinetta, Robecco up to Bernate, very beautiful and interesting canals for both the natural and architectural point of view.

After returning the world of sailing to Milan, and having convinced the public that the waters of the Navigli are clean and having celebrating Christmas on the banks of the Darsena dock, now we are thinking about the next goal:

The "dry" period has been extended to three/four months in recent years in order to allow all those maintenance works that have not been done in the past decades. A project I'd like to realise in the future is to exploit these months and do something with the canal without water: the Darsena could become a kind of arena where we could organise various sports events, a ski slope or even, a botanical garden.

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