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2e - Liceo scientifico Einstein

The North Park of Milan

Table of Contents

The origins of the park

This park was created at the end of the 60s over a territory which was highly industrialised. The major industry in the area was Breda which manufactured machinery. When the industrial decline began, some of the structures once used by it were transformed. An example of this is the Teatrino, or Small Theatre, which represents an example of how to create a place of meeting for the citizens out of an industrial building. It was built recovering the old concrete structure made of fourteen pillars which previously supported a crane for the loading and unloading of blast furnace waste.

Another section of the factory grounds was used as an airport and is now covered with meadows. The former testing area for trains and trams has now been conquered back to nature (see image of the track).

Obviously, careful planning was necessary to create this park, but what originally was a suburban area with marginal agricultural areas and frequent unauthorized dumps, open-air deposits, car wreckers and abandoned industrial plants has now been transformed into a wide green area to be enjoyed.

A rail once used for industrial testing, now integrated in nature

(Written with the contribution of Luciano Cotti, Andrea Paracchini, Francesca Pellegrini)

How it is arranged

The North Park of Milan in reality does not belong to Milan alone: in fact its territory is part of five different town councils. It is a vast area of land of over 600 hectares, which is equivalent to approximately 1300 football fields! Unfortunately, not all this surface is available to citizens. The territory of the park can roughly be divided into three parts: about one third is either privately owned or is used by one of the structures that are present in the park area (there are one hospital, a school centre, two cemeteries, and so on); another portion is made up of legally bound areas (some likely to be transformed into green areas, others which need to be recovered, others still which are used for agriculture); the largest part however is open to the public.

The park is characterized by meadows, wide woods, hills, tree-lined paths and flower-beds. It also has ponds and a lake. In the middle of the park you can find the Visitors Centre, located into a former group of farmhouses. There are also other buildings in the park, among which Villa Torretta, which was a superb countryside residence for the aristocracy in the 16th century, and Villa Manzoni, where the poet and writer used to spend the summer.

This park is also important because it helps to implement the Environmental Education Programme for schools through the organization of guided tours for classes.

(written with the contribution of Francesca Pellegrini, Luciano Cotti, Andrea Paracchini, Matteo Pozzi)

The animals in the park

The area of the North Park is full of animals, in particular the little lake and the small system of ponds represent an interesting habitat.

But the Consorzio which runs the park did not introduce animals in it. According to their species and their characteristics, the animals arrived here following three different paths: they came autonomously; they were introduced without permission by visitors; they were there from the start.
For example, the American water turtles which can be found in the North Park are the result of the reckless introduction by people who can't keep them in their houses any longer. This introduction has however created a serious unbalance in the ecosystem because the number of frogs and toads, as well as that of other animals, has dramatically decreased in the last few years as a consequence of the presence of turtles.
Along with these animals, in the park you can also find birds, such as wild pigeons, ducks, moorhens, kestrels (a prey bird), robin-redbreasts and woodpeckers; in the ponds there are goldfish, carps and tenches, and on the meadows you may happen to see hedgehogs and rabbits, the occasional snake or the frequent rat. Rats have been frequently fought against, but they are part of the urban environment.

(Written with the contribution of Francesca Pellegrini, Carla Rampolla, Paolo Perini)

The plants in the park

When it was started, the park needed a vast reforestation project. This began in 1983 with the planting of about 10.000 seedlings. The plants were chosen according to the types of trees and bushes which could easily be found in the surrounding areas, but many exotic species were introduced as well.

For this reason, we now can see many typical Italian plants such as the white and black poplar, the elm, the horse-chestnut tree, the lime-tree, the field maple tree and the pine tree alongside to red oaks, alders, willows, and cherry-trees.

There are also various bushes, among which the hawthorn, the blackthorn, the hazelnut and the yew tree are prevalent. Next to the ponds one can see thriving reeds and some bamboo plants, and the water surface is partially covered in water lilies.

Many different types of mushrooms can be found in the meadows, some of which are deadly. As for flowers, we can mention the snowdrop, the wood anemone (Anemone Nemorosa) and the spring bellflower (Leucojum vernum), all of which are protected by law.

The park of Villa Manzoni, which is included in the greater park, has trees which reach the height of 40 metres. Some of them have trunks seven metres wide, and there's also a plane tree the foliage of which covers an area 40 metres wide.

(Written with the contribution of Paolo Perini, Matteo Pozzi, Luciano Cotti, Andrea Paracchini)

The water system

There are no springs in the park, so one could wonder where the water which fills the various ponds comes from. In reality, it is almost completely rain water which is not lost due to the presence of clay layers in the ground. In some cases the ground was partially excavated, but frequently the rain water gathered in a depression in the ground. Obviously, the existence of a pond is not permanent, because it may dry up due to lack of rainfall or if the hollow in the ground is filled up by sliding soil.

The small pond system created in 1992 in the southern part of the park is the evidence of the great value that Consorzio has given to the water element, which guarantees survival and birth to thousands of ecosystems and contributes to form a varied landscape.

These ponds are the natural habitat of many insects which need water in the first part of their life, such as dragonflies, the "gerride" and, unfortunately, mosquitoes, but they are now inhabited by fish, amphibians and turtles (see animal section).

(Written with the contribution of Francesca Pellegrini and Matteo Pozzi)