Baggio Cave Park

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Cave di Baggio Park is on the western side of the city and extends over 334 acres. It is one of the first urban parks in the city, inaugurated in 2002, and located within the boundaries of the South Agricultural Park. Its name comes from the four quarries that used to provide gravel and sand in 1920 and were disposed of in the 1960s. The whole area was then neglected until 1976 when the project for a public park was devised. Water from the Ticino River was used to fill the quarries, but only Italia Nostra Association was eventually able to start the actual park construction work.

Inside the park, there are several different environments, including hay meadows, the marshland, the wetland, and the naturalistic area; there are also some rural structures like rural the Trii Baselloni, and some public spaces for gatherings, events, and instructional itineraries.

The hay meadow

The hay meadow contains a high flora and fauna biodiversity. Its importance is particularly relevant as only 4% of agricultural land in the province of Milan produces hay.
If left unattended, it would be quickly colonized by bushes and trees. It is, therefore, one of the few cases when human activity contributes to preserving complete biodiversity.
Regular fertilization ensures a good amount of nutrients and the development of several herbaceous species (up to 50) in an ideal habitat for a high number of vertebrates and invertebrates. The most conspicuous blooms are yellow (ranunculus and dandelion), white (yarrow and daisy), violet (bellflowers and ragged robin). There are also several types of grass, including sweet vernal species, perennial ryegrass, tall oat-grass, Timothy-grass, and cat grass. Small rodents and many bird species have found their elective habitats right here. There are, in fact, skylarks, hooded crows, kestrels, and swallows.

The most prominent animal biodiversity is present among invertebrates, like several species of butterflies.

During the nesting period, the hedges and the rows of trees bordering the meadows give shelter to a considerable variety of animal species. The hedges, in particular, are home to small ones like flycatchers, greenfinches, serins, and wrynecks. This meadow is regularly mown in order to increase the wealth of the animal and the vegetable species and, consequently, the very biodiversity of the entire park;

The marshland

The origin of the marshland is still being debated. Its oldest buildings were most likely built during the early Middle Ages, near Lake Gerundo: a vast swamp bordering with the Adda River. At that time, the marshland appeared in several areas submerged by low stagnant waters, with plant species typical of such a peculiar environment. Unfortunately, those very species (sedges, rushes, swamp straws) were not particularly attractive to herbivores, as they were rich in silicates and featured sharp leaves. Around 1200, the Cistercian friars studied and designed the modern marshland, with sloping sides, still popular in the province of Milan. Now, the herbaceous species are mostly sown by man, although some can grow spontaneously. The most common ones are garden cress, ryegrass, Timothy grass, and Yorkshire fog.

During the winter months, the marshland becomes a resting and nourishing resource for various animals, like herons, moorhens, lapwings, and snipes, as well as small passerines such as water pipits, and white wagtails.
The water comes from a channel and enters a series of perpendicular ditches called “water tanks”. The latter overflow adjacent portions of lawn (wings or sides), then the water is eventually collected downstream in the so-called “ditch head”: this can act as a new channel, thus looping the watering process for the marshland.

The socio-economic role of this type of irrigated lawn has also always been particularly appreciated: it allows. In fact, 7 or 8 mowings each year, and half of them in the winter.
Despite this, such refined technique has been constantly abandoned over the years, and now marshlands cover less than 0.5% of the Province territory.

Inside the Parco delle Cave, the two remaining marshlands are currently managed by Cascina Caldera farm.

The wetland

What we generally call “wetlands” includes variegated habitats with the permanent or temporary presence of water, such as peat bogs, riparian marsh areas of lakes, ponds and rivers, river deltas, and coastal bodies of water like lagoons or brackish ponds. The need to find new land for agriculture and fight the spread of pandemic diseases, such as malaria, have led to the remediation of many of these areas which currently cover just over 2% of the province of Milan. Wetlands are very delicate environments, sensitive to pollution, and to eutrophication. Their morphological and physical tracts are favored by a very specific and largely unique flora and fauna. For these reasons, many of those areas have been included by the European Community list of the most important environments to be preserved and protected.
The wetland in the Parco delle Cave consists of a lake, several fountains, and pools with the periodic presence of water. The shores of the lake feature many trees, grassy stretches, and a reed bed made of large swamp straw tufts, while in the central area there’s a large thicket of sedge.
The pools are connected to each other and to the lake via a network of underground pipes that move excess water from the lake to the Casati quarry. Their hydrometric level is highly variable, and some of them are just temporary. They house different kinds of vegetation and can be shaded by the trees on the shores or partially exposed to sunlight.
Among the flowers found here, there is broadleaf cattail, water speedwell, common water-plantain, water mint, pendulous sedge, and soft rush. On the lakeshore black locusts, willows, black poplars, and elms are abundant.

Although they’re found in limited quantities, there are also black alders, a potentially dominant species in these environments. In the undergrowth, there are also the very rare summer snowflakes. The wetland in the Parco delle Cave also hosts a remarkable variety of vertebrate species, which have some kind of relationship with water. Along with amphibians and reptiles like water snakes, there are a lot of birds, like mallards (some belonging to domestic varieties), coots, and moorhens which carry out their entire life cycle in the surrounding wetland and riparian vegetation. Gray herons and other heron species often feed right here. Small passerine birds, such as reed warblers can be found here during the reproduction period or in the marshland during the coldest months.

The naturalistic Area

The woods of the Parco delle Cave are mainly distributed in its central part and are small fragments of the forests that used to cover a large part of the Po River Valley (hornbeam and oak woods). Trees grown where the water table remains underground and the soil is far from rivers, streams, and ditches. The main tree species found here are oaks (Siberian chipmunk, and sessile oak), and white hornbeam. The woods have a complex structure with several layers. In the arboreal layer, in addition to the abovementioned plants, there are ashes, maples, and wild cherries, while in the shrub layer hazel, dogwood, spindle, and privet are the dominant species.
At the beginning of spring, the herbaceous layer features plants with prominent flowers such as wood anemones, primroses, Salomon’s seals, lilies of the valley, and periwinkles. The woods also host a remarkable number of different animal species. There are voles and wild mice – although quite difficult to spot; birds include green woodpeckers and great spotted woodpecker mostly in the oldest woods. Many other species can be found in the lower layers of the arboreal and shrub vegetation, including nightingales, and the blackcaps; in the upper layers of the tree foliage, there are tits, blackbirds, finches, and chiffchaffs which nest in the tree cavities.
Finally, tawny owls nest in these forests or on their borders, benefiting from the open space around to hunt their prey.
All in all, this forest vegetation is of great importance for safeguarding plant and animal biodiversity.

Nonetheless, in the province of Milan woods have undergone a drastic reduction due to agricultural and urban expansion: they currently cover just little over 5% of the provincial area. The surviving woods, such as those of the Parco delle Cave, are often invaded by exotic species, such as locusts and tree of heavens, while the most representative herbaceous forest species are not that common anymore – in fact, they need mature woods to survive.
To counter this trend, reforestation projects are currently underway using native species, spontaneous in this area, along with the reintroduction of scarce or even disappeared herbaceous species.

The rural structures


The local landscape is characterized by a variety of rural settlements whose structure varies considerably due to historical reasons, and the type of agricultural and zootechnical activities.
The plain is characterized by “courtyard farmhouses”: quite imposing structures that recall the layout and organization of the spaces of a rustic Roman villa, and the Cistercian and Benedictine monastic grange;

Trii Baselloni

Next to Casati quarry, which currently houses “Il Bersagliere” association and also features the entrance on via Rossellini, there’s the sluice called “Trii Baselloni” (“Three big steps”);

The Associations

Parco delle Cave hosts several associations that carry out their activity in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature;

Educational itineraries

Sixteen sports/gym training stations, free to use and suitable for everyone. Five kilometers of mixed tracks for running, jogging and walking.

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This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)


via delle Forze Armate, via Fratelli Zoia, via Caldera - 20152 Milano(MI)

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