A new garden in central Milan

An oasis behind the Royal Palace.

A quiet, green oasis has been created in Milan’s city centre for shoppers or tourists to take a break from the hustle of city centre life and sit, read or chat in a courtyard behind the Palazzo Reale.

At a stone’s throw from the city’s iconic Duomo or cathedral, a car park has been converted into a garden with the help of non-profit Orticola Lombardia horticultural association, which dates back to 1865.

The design, signed by landscape architect Marco Bay, had to tackle the problem of creating a green space in an area with no deep soil, requiring an expert selection of the plants and trees and the use of metal tubs, painted a dark green to harmonise with other street furnishing in Milan.

It follows the style of the typical Italian symmetrical garden which was once seen in the palazzo’s main courtyard, now long lost to modernisation. Shaded by plane trees, with their sweet, balsamic fragrance, the garden extends right up to the portico along the courtyard wall, providing shade and shelter. It is gently illuminated at dusk.

Bay’s design reverses the trend decried by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell in the well-known verse, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”, in her song Big Yellow Taxi.