Daisy Helman

Chasing Gardens in Milan

Garden Collage was able to spend a few days in Milan during Fashion Week, but although the city is known for its style and design, it’s also full of hidden gardens that are not otherwise visible from the street.

You might have to peer through gates and walk through unexpected doors, but behind them are elaborate courtyards with regal fountains and impressive stonework. Huge magnolia trees line stone courtyards all over Milan. The Italians have a casual elegance, a fullness in their gardens. You feel it when you have a cocktail at the super-chic and beautiful Bulgaria Hotel, and when walking down the Via Bouganova, which is the longtime home of Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani. (The area seems austere until you look behind the doors and see an intriguingly rogue urban hangout.)

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Just around the corner, in the center of the bustling city, is the Orto Botanico di Brera, Milan’s center-stage botanical garden. Located just behind the Pinacoteca di Brera, the Orto Botanico di Brera was founded in 1775 as a Jesuit garden serving students of medicine and pharmacology. Today, it’s the perfect place to relax or read, and the garden’s rustic yet carefully-curated flora also makes a beautiful backdrop to a leisurely sunset stroll.

Orto has a friendlier feel than most botanic gardens, which can sometimes feel museum-like and too scholastic to be fun. Orto, however, is a space that people actually use: when we arrive there are people drawing, reading, laughing, and talking amongst themselves in various corners. Last Sunday, there was a cocktail party happening at one end of the garden wherein people were taking photographs with a scarecrow as couples read quietly on benches at the other end.

Elsewhere in the city, the spectacular new Fondazione Prada caught our attention. The architecture is sublime and the art is well-curated and interesting even to those who might not have a particular interest in art. The cafe, designed by Wes Anderson, is also wonderful, but best of all: they are in the process of building a green roof that will add another element of sustainability to this already ethereal space. Gardens and nature are simply yet expertly integrated into the space, as they are all over Milan: the trees here are art in their own right, reflected gorgeously in the building’s wall of mirrors. Milan is a city that leaves a lot to the imagination, but when you know where to look, it offers nothing but the divine.

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