Some say – though nobody can know for sure – that Mozart once walked around the pathways of the Botanical Garden in Brera, at the heart of Milan. We know for sure that poet Giuseppe Parini used to live in an apartment that looked over this naturalistic oasis created by Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in 1774, after taking over the Jesuits’ Palazzo Brera, which to this day is home to the Garden as well as to an Observatory, the Braidense Library and the city’s Fine Arts Academy.
The Garden extends over almost 5,000 square meters in the city center, and was designed in the 18th century to be an “ortus oeconomicus”, that is a place where “agriculture, arts and the pleasures of life” were promoted, and where direct interaction with nature allowed doctors and apothecaries of the Brera Gymnasium to experiment with a new way of learning botany.
Today, the Garden is an academic institution and a museum, where interesting guided tours and educational activities for schools and the general public are held. It is a place where collections of hydrangeas, aquilegia, peonies and medicinal plants bloom – not to mention two famous old specimens of Ginkgo biloba, purchased from a London-based company in 1786 and now a symbol of this wonderful urban garden.