In via Chiodi, in Milan, there are about 25,000 square meters of urban gardens born from a private initiative. In spring they produce radishes, broad beans and peas, and then salads, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and courgettes, beets and spinach, croissants, all aromatic herbs and many flowers. Something even in winter, including cabbage and herbs, but all year round urban gardens produce sociability, and sustainable and environmentally friendly behaviors. Under the eyes of the creator, the architect Claudio Cristofani (http://www.angoliditerra.org/) therefore vegetables and good habits are grown.
1) How and when was your garden born?
In 2003 we began to enclose small rectangles within a plot, the first vegetable gardens they were given, free of charge, to 10 volunteers who would have dedicated an "agricultural season" to experiment with what needs could determine the crops for family use. Based on their experience, we would have planned the layout of the subsequent gardens, the number of which would have been, due to economy of scale of management, at least double the initial ones. Every year we have doubled, up to the current extension, as requests for assignments continued and continue to arrive spontaneously, both from the inhabitants of nearby houses and from those who pass by via Chiodi to go to work.
Today the Orti di via Chiodi are the largest settlement in urban gardens of a private initiative existing in Milan and probably in Italy. It includes 180 parcels of variable surface between 75 and 100 square meters and overall occupies 25,000 square meters.
2) How did you choose the terrain? What was there before?
The area where today the vegetable gardens it was intended for the expansion of the nearby Teramo Park. We chose the land aware that, for this urban intervention, an area that has a "clean" history was needed. Its past must be agricultural, with few chemical treatments for both weeding and enrichment.
Before there was a simple lawn and from a simple lawn to a complex of gardens the road is not short because a number of problems have to be solved.
3) What commitment did you ask for and what expenses?
A lot of commitment, especially for issues such as the availability of good quality water for irrigation, the construction of a fence with natural elements such as hedges or wooden fences, the definition of the areas possibly necessary for parking some cars, connection to the electrical network to power the hydraulic pumps of the water distribution system and the construction of a small warehouse and toilet with the relative sewage collection system.
Even the investment in money was not indifferent. In addition to the rent, about € 4,000 / ha, a set-up cost of about € 130,000 / ha must be expected.
4) Who are the users of the gardens?
Families are the first applicants and those who benefit most from attending thevegetable garden. In most cases, they are people who are already sensitive to the values of nature, ecology, healthy eating. Often they are not experts in cultivation, as is normal in urban areas, but in a few months they are able to read up on and experiment with traditional techniques.
In addition to families, there is no shortage of simple groups of friends, individual retirees or workers still in business, students and joint purchasing groups (GAS).
5) What products are grown?
The products are typical of our region and of the fairly favorable climate. Spring first fruits such as radishes, broad beans and peas; then, starting from mid-April, all kinds of salads, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and courgettes, beets and spinach, croissants, all aromatic herbs and, why not, many flowers. The cultivation of winter-ripening products such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage is more difficult, because the autumn climate of the Milanese plain is too humid and the nights quite cold.
Beyond the vegetable harvest, another equally concrete product of via Chiodi is the transformation of the lifestyles of the people who frequent the vegetable gardens. They are beginning to be more respectful of environmental balances, beyond the rules that are set by local legislation.
6) Do the gardens also host moments of socializing?
Yes, different according to the times. In the morning the elderly arrive, joined in the second morning by their wives. In the afternoon, the mothers arrive with the children who have come out of school and in the evening the fathers take off their ties and jackets to extract rubber boots from the trunk of the car or scooter. On Saturdays and Sundays the gardeners they welcome friends and relatives to entertain them on picnics where they also offer picked and grilled vegetables.
The green spaces here, correctly designed, have spontaneously assumed the function of a "square". Obviously this is limited to "gardeners", but it remains inclusive, because there is no age limit, so participation extends to entire families and groups. There is also a favorable sharing of objectives and behaviors, with immediate benefits in terms of cordiality, respect, friendship.
7) Was any love story born between these gardens ...?
In a large settlement of vegetable gardens friendships are born and, why not, even loves. The Compagnia Alma Rosé represents, in the informal Milanese theaters, a show entitled "Concert in the gardens"In which he tells, among other things, the story of two widowers who met and created a new family in via Chiodi. It is equally significant to observe small groups of children intent on playing without any specific equipment, in the lawn, sitting in a circle and without particular need for adult supervision.
It is a pity that urban planning is not yet capable of defining, at least on the regulatory level, a set of systematic rules that can favor the spread of this "good practice".
Interview byMarta Abbà