The Martesana cycle path is one of those tracks that enables you enjoy both outdoor activity and tourism as you travel through the history of the Lombardy canals; it runs alongside the Corso del Naviglio Piccolo in Milan, a navigable canal that connects Milan with the Adda river and, therefore, with Lake Como. Commissioned by Francesco Sforza, and designed by Leonardo da Vinci, it was constructed in just three years starting from 1475.
The artificial canal now has an irrigation function but for many centuries its waters were crisscrossed by barges that transported all kinds of cargo - human, animal and goods - from Milan to Lecco in just one day: travel times which, in that era, were absolutely unthinkable for land transport. Since it is both a cycle and pedestrian track, it is very popular on weekends so it is advisable to proceed at a moderate speed especially when crossing the state roads that intersect the route. Just plan your ride on weekdays if you want to fully enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the places en route!
The Martesana cycle path starts from Cassina de 'Pomm at the corner of via Melchiorre Gioia and extends for 30 km passing through the municipalities of Cologno Monzese, Vimodrone, Cernusco sul Naviglio, Cassina dei Pecchi, Bussero, Gorgonzola, Gessate, Inzago and Cassano d'Adda.
The track runs alongside the right side of the canal, winding through small towns and shady parks equipped with benches and tables, perfect for picnics or short breaks. There are a number of inviting trattorias and restaurants with the DeCA brand (Denomination of Ambrosian Cuisine) in the villages along the route. (link to restaurants DeCA Gorgonzola - Cassano d’Adda) Keep an eye out on the left bank of the canal for a glimpse of some noble residences, the so-called "ville di delizia" constructed, from the 1600s onwards, for the aristocratic families to spend their holidays in the fresh air, away from the humid Milanese summers.
NOT TO BE MISSED
After a few kilometres of cycling you’ll arrive at the town of Vimodrone, and further ahead, Cernusco sul Naviglio a traditional rural resort for the Milanese aristocracy. The early eighteenth-century Rococo Villa Alari Visconti is an architectural gem surrounded by a superb garden overlooking the waters of the Naviglio. In Cassano d´Adda, our final destination, the magnificent Villa Borromeo certainly merits a visit. Commenced in the mid-18th century as a sumptuous holiday home for the Marquis D'Adda, it is fronted by an impressive main courtyard. The current neoclassical façade is the work of the architect Piermarini who, between 1780 and 1785, remodelled a building by Francesco Croce. Bequeathed to the Borromeo family at the end of the 19th century, the villa was occupied by the German military during the Second World War and was repurposed into family homes. Thanks to the purchase by a private individual it has now been restored and is used for events.
If you’re riding along this cycle path in mid-September, we strongly recommend a stop-off in the centre of Gorgonzola for the DOP cheese festival that sells, as you may well guess, Gorgonzola cheese, a local delicacy that originated here!