The biggest urban area in Lombardy region (and in the whole country) is located around the city of Milan, in the heart of the Lambro-Seveso-Olona watershed, which is a portion of the wider Po river watershed, as delineated in the Management Plan of the Po river District.
Thanks to the great abundance of groundwater and surface water, the high fertility of soils and the flat landform, this territory has been ever characterized by a rich economy, mainly based on agriculture first and on industry and tertiary activities later on, and by the presence of flourishing human settlements. From the 1950s to the present, and particularly in the last decades, the balance between built up areas and agricultural areas has been dramatically upset: in Lombardy region agricultural use substantially decreased in the last fifty year (more than one fifth), on the contrary, land destined for urban uses increased enormously.
To the heart of the basin, there is a place of thousands-year old human settlements thanks to the extraordinary profusion of water (groundwater and surface water) which have found one of the most fertile land worldwide, rich in material and immaterial heritages. It can be defined “Milan metropolitan region”.
This region is characterized by different vulnerability aspects which nowadays are stressed due to the climate change and the economic crisis effects. These elements are strictly interconnected with the characteristics of the spatial development in the area. On the opposite side, the resilience capacity of this rural-urban region is founded on social and environmental resources that are a pre-condition of a good governance model.
The confrontation of land cover maps and terrain coverage of this region shows how the city has moved towards the countryside and the countryside has moved towards the city in an inseparable interweaving from the 1950s to the present.
Nowadays, the abandonment of the rural activities that in past led to a lack of maintenance and control of the settlement system gives way to a reverse of the trend: the birth of the rural districts is the main indicator of the enduring value of the rural tradition in Milan area. Water and soil are again at the heart of the settlement system towards a “new civilization” based on health food, renewable energy, environmental and landscape quality, protection of the biodiversity, valorization of the cultural heritage.
In this area, in the recent years, new forms of governance and cooperation are emerging, such as public-private protocol agreements, with the aim of managing the transformation processes of a territory where rural and urban are strictly intertwined.