While in ancient times urban agglomerations were integrated with the surrounding area, over time the development of urbanisation altered this balance, generating an increasingly pronounced conflict between city and countryside. It is from the 18th-19th centuries that greenery began to acquire a functional value beyond purely aesthetic-decorative aspects to become a recognised element of public health, carving out, in the dense built-up fabric, an increasingly consistent space for recreational, social and cultural activities and in general for “decanting” from city stress. Parks are thus becoming irreplaceable places where one can take refuge and read a book in the shade of a tree, play sports or mingle with others, attend a show or simply stroll idly along in the manner of a flâneur amidst the chirping of birds.
Today, the unstoppable phenomenon that pushes the world's population to concentrate massively in urban centres that increasingly resemble megacities makes the presence of green lungs even more necessary. In fact, parks can contribute concretely to mitigating the environmental imbalances of the contemporary city, by improving the physical and chemical quality of the atmosphere, by favouring the regulation of water flows and water purification, by increasing biodiversity and the resilience of urban systems. As well as, obviously, retaining an important role in providing opportunities for social aggregation, enhancing leisure time, and promoting and developing the territory, in the heart of cities that – while on the one hand remain the fulcrum of progress and innovation – on the other are increasingly frenetic, congested and in which it is not uncommon to feel a deep sense of loneliness.
The following is a non-exhaustive roundup of these oases of reconciliation carved out of the asphalt jungle, bearing witness to the fact that escaping the city does not require hyperbolic impulses but sometimes all it takes is to cross the street to literally enter another world.