“Give trees a chance”: two side clash about saving wisteria and lime trees in Piazzale Baiamonti

Following the demonstration, the Mayor of Milan said three of the trees will actually be saved.

There is a green area between Porta Garibaldi and the Sarpi district dedicated to mafia victim Lea Garofalo. A social garden that, over the years, has become a place for meeting, culture and recreation. It is important for residents because this is the only green area in the neighborhood.

However, the garden is under threat. There is a plan by Herzog & De Meuron studio to build a pyramid structure that will house the Museum of Resistance. Similar to the opposite building, where Microsoft and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation are located, the new structure would be constructed on the Lea Garofalo Garden and on the lawn outside the Circolo Combattenti e Reduci (Combatants’ and Veterans’ Club). The project was devised by the Municipality of Milan and it is supported by the Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d’Italia – Anpi (National Association of Italian Partisans).

According to the original plans, eleven plants, including decades-old lime trees and a monumental wisteria, will be removed. But some environmental groups, together with Libera, the association against mafias, don’t want the historic trees to be cut down. In late March, they launched a petition which has been signed by more than 50.000 people. They want to slightly modify the project so that the plants can be saved.

“Give trees a chance”

In the afternoon of Saturday May 20, 2023, a flash mob entitled “Give trees a chance”, a name inspired by the John Lennon song “Give peace a chance”, was organised. There were the environmental associations Giardini in Transito and Baiamonti Verde Comune, as well as some municipal councilors and representatives of Anpi and Libera. The aim of the event was to “make noise” so that more people could learn about the garden’s fate. Some of the demonstrators had tambourines, pots and other objects to make even more noise.

I manifestanti al flash mob "Give trees a chance" ascoltano il discorso di apertura di Vincenzo Strambio
I manifestanti al flash mob “Give trees a chance” ascoltano il discorso di apertura di Vincenzo Strambio

Shortly after 5 p.m., the event began with speeches by the president of the Giardini in Transito association, Vincenzo Strambio, and Carlo Monguzzi, municipal councilor of the environmentalist party Europa Verde.

Clashes among the demonstrators

Soon, however, squabbles broke out between some representatives of the various associations. Some members of Baiamonti Verde Comune accused the municipal councilors, Libera and the other associations of wanting to cement a green area. According to a demonstrator, the Museum «could be built in an already existing structure, without additional land consumption». Based on Baiamonti Verde Comune, the Museum of the Resistance shouldn’t be built there because that is the only green space in the district. Destroying it would damage an already densely built-up and busy area.

On the other hand, Libera and Giardini in Transito want the project to be built, saving at the same time wisteria and plants, as stated in the petition. A position declared by Strambio: «I have always been an anti-fascist, and I always will be. I want the trees to be saved and I also want the Museum».

The City Council itself unanimously voted an agenda to include the trees in the new Museum of Resistance. According to Monguzzi, this is the only possible solution: «Four years ago we fought in the City Council for this area to remain green. We lost since the amendment was rejected. Therefore, in the Land Government Plan this area has become buildable. So we try to get the best possible result». 

Future perspectives

However, these divisions risk undermining the effectiveness of the battle. «If we split up the first time we meet together because one doesn’t think exactly the same way another thinks, we’re going nowhere», Strambio said. «If we want to come here to make a controversy by saying that the petition is against the green in Milan, fine, we can say everything in life… But we risk giving strength to the voices that are against the operation to save the green».

Now the decision is up to the Ministry of Culture, since the project is in the executive phase. The time is running out: the start of the construction was scheduled for the beginning of May.  However, the protests have achieved a first result: Milan Mayor, Giuseppe Sala, said May 30 that the wisteria and two lime trees will definitely be saved, while for the other plants there is still no certainty.

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