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Cities need more green spaces to adapt to climate change and facilitate community resilience. However, successfully managing green spaces is challenging. City governments consistently employ top-down management practices that limit the benefits, usage, and perception of such spaces as Nature. Further, current management practices overlook socio-cultural factors important to residents. Using the existing categories of urban green spaces (UGS) and informal green spaces (IGS), this article situates the cultural practice prendersi cura as a way to conceptualize successful, bottom-up green space management. The term prendersi cura, meaning “to take care of” in Italian, emerged through interviews in Perugia, Italy, and reflects the socio-ecological value of IGS and the disconnect between residents and city-managed UGS. This study employed mixed methods, combining 10 weeks of participant observation, 13 interviews, and GIS analysis to understand the relationship between Perugians and their green spaces. Results indicate that interviewees did not describe city-supported UGS (i.e. top-down green spaces like parks or historic gardens) as Nature, even if they were areas of dense vegetation and recognized by the City of Perugia in GIS analyses. In contrast, interviewees described IGS (i.e. community gardens, vacant lots, or potted plants) that were unrecognized in city GIS visualizations as Nature, indicating a stronger attachment to green spaces when interviewees had active roles in their management or witnessed community-based management practices. This paper demonstrates the importance of managing green spaces through a socio-ecological framework that considers user perceptions and cultural values. To allow greening initiatives to reach their full potential, it is critical to embrace local values and participation in management practices.