Walking around the grey streets of Milan, you may find a pleasant surprise if you look up.

Most of the city's gardens are compact bursts of greenery that hide away up on roof terraces, leaning over to tantalise mere mortals like us.

"Here lives somebody who can afford their own trees" they cry, referring to all those summer days we spend jostling for space in Parco Sempione or Giardini Pubblici.

But there is another way of finding your own tranquil oasis in the middle of the city.

Not too far from the Montenapoleone district lies a bit of a hidden gem.

Behind high stone walls and under the dappled shade of a miniature woodland lies Villa Necchi Campiglio, a stunning, well-kept house from the 1930s.

Even better, it has its own restaurant in the garden too.

Please excuse the neon brightness of the tomatoes. I edited these photos on a different computer to the one I am now writing on and I am aware that on certain screens, they look like they've been soaked in acid.

Instead, imagine the freshness of this cool salad, eaten on a sweltering day. 'Tropea' onions, celery, tomatoes, prawns, and a handful of basil and lettuce, all washed down with a crisp glass of white.

We needed it in that stifling heat!

"That was so good, and I am full, but I kind of want the risotto now."


"I mean, it sounds so interesting. Courgette flowers and scallops... Do you want to share?"

"No. I am not eating a risotto."

"Are you sure? We could order a plate and you could at least taste it.."


"Well I'm going to have one! But I'm ordering it to share to hide the fact that I'm eating two mains. Excuse me..."


"Could we please have a risotto to share?"

"Certainly ma'am."

"One portion though, please, just one portion!"

"Of course Sir."

Ten minutes later, two plates of risotto arrived. He refused to eat a single bite. Meaning I ate both plates. Not ashamed.

Unfortunately the swimming pool is just for show ("It can even be heated!" our guide told us later, quickly putting an end to my fantasies of diving in and getting a few laps in before security fished me out.)

Who wants to play Gatsby?

Built in the 1930s for a rather wealthy family who wanted a city pad to crash in after nights out at La Scala (how the other half lived eh?), it has survived for almost a century entirely intact.

My favourite room was the "conservatory". Many features of the house were cutting edge for the time but even today it has the power to seriously impress. For example, in this room two panels of glass house a collection of plants to bring a little of the garden into the room.

This sink was all one of the first to be made in stainless steel, a revolutionary new material being used in the home that was much easier to keep clean than traditional china. The draining boards either side of the bowl are slanted to stop water from stagnating there.

The room in which the gentlemen would retire to smoke. If you look at the carpet, you can see little marks from the cigarette ash.

Only three people lived in the villa and the family had no heir to inherit it. As such, it was left to FAI, the Italian National Trust. Whilst it's a shame that the villa has not been passed on to another lucky family, it's incredibly fortunate that it is instead open to all of us to wonder round at our leisure (with the guidance of a lovely tour guide anyway).

Whilst there may only have been a few of them living there, they had many friends come to stay including some of the most important families in society and royalty back at the time.

They all had their own guest quarters with similarly lavish bedrooms and bathrooms but my favourite bathroom was that in the servant quarters.

Big enough without being excessive, marble floors and luscious black tiles with a pretty window looking out into the branches.

I wouldn't mind staring at that while I soaked in the bath!

Admission costs €9 per adult and €4 for children. National Trust and FAI members enter for free. Your admission includes an informative tour of the house with one of their lovely, friendly tour guides. Entrance to the cafeteria is open to the public with or without tickets.

Next time you're in Milan and you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, lock yourself away like the elite of twentieth century Italian society.