Milan is graced with two parks. By far the most frequented is the prestigious Sempione Park, flanked by the Sforzesco Castle, an imitation Arc de Triomphe bequeathed by Napoleon, the original sports stadium used by Milan’s two football teams, the Museum of Modern Art and, inside the park itself, all manner of terrazas, cafeterias, gelaterias, and a small duck pond.
To the west of the centre, however, is the lesser-known, but still grand, Indro Montanelli Park. Named after the eponymous journalist and historian, it is smaller, less distinguished and, perhaps for all that, much more of a park than it is an ‘attraction’.
There is something for everyone here; children’s play areas, with permanent carousels and dodgem car rides, are dotted around the grotto at one entrance to the park, where enterprising locals offer donkey rides to the children when the weather is clement. If that is not to their liking, there is a ‘trenino’, a small train that takes children around a circuit dotted with figurines from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. In Indro Montanelli Park, you are never that far away from the surreal. The duck pond here is far more intricate and discrete, though in fact bigger, than that of its rival across town, and perhaps for that reason more of an actual haven for migrating fowl.
One thing that perhaps marks out Indro Montanelli as being distinct is the prominence given to areas specially reserved for pet dogs, having the only ‘free’ area where dogs are permitted to run free of leashes. Sempione would never allow such equality between the species! Milan is a notoriously dog-friendly city, and the Milanese themselves often equip their pets with clothing from the famous Milanese fashion houses. Yes, you can, in fact, buy special Dolce & Gabbana doggy coats and sparkly leashes, if that is to your taste.
At the other main entrance to the park, there are cafeterias galore, hard by the kind of ‘palazzo’ that can be found scattered all over Milan, housing an art gallery which is perhaps one of Milan’s best-kept secrets. In the Spring and Summer, ambulatory panino sellers spring up throughout the park, and it becomes a lunch-time haven for office-workers and students seeking respite in the shade of over a hundred varieties of tree (including, yes, a Lebanese Cedar, bequeathed to the City of Milan by the Lebanese authorities), or basking in the sun by one of the many fountains the park provides.
Looming over Indro Montanelli at the third entrance is the grandiose Natural History Museum, and next to it the Planetarium. Despite the majesty of these buildings, they are simply there, part of the furniture of the park. In most other parks these wonderful buildings would be the centrepiece; the Milanese, however, are graced with such beautiful antiquities that, however marvellous these two buildings are, they don’t so much stand out as blend in.
Now that Spring has arrived, the blossom is out, the leaves are returning to the trees, and the bustle is returning to the park. If you visit Milan, certainly take a look at Sempione Park…but come over to Indro Montanelli, and see how the Milanese really enjoy their free time.
#1month1park is Beirut Green Project’s latest blog section, where we will be featuring one park a month from across the globe. These blog posts are written by residents of cities around the world who enjoy using their parks and are eager to share their experiences with us.
The purpose of this activity is to showcase some of beautiful parks from around the globe, to get inspired by some of their unique features and solutions, and to highlight the significance and vital need for these spaces for a healthy city life.