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Milan (// mil-AN, US also // mil-AHN, Milanese: [miˈlãː] ⓘ; Italian: Milano, Italian: [miˈlaːno] ⓘ) is a city in Northern Italy, regional capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city proper in Italy after Rome. The city proper has a population of about 1.4 million, while its metropolitan city has 3.22 million residents. The urban area of Milan is the fourth largest in the EU with 5.27 million inhabitants. According to national sources, the population within the wider Milan metropolitan area (also known as Greater Milan), is estimated between 4.9 million and 7.4 million making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the largest in the EU. Milan is the economic capital of Italy, one of the economic capitals of Europe and a global financial centre.
|Comune di Milano
|Giuseppe Sala (EV)
|Milan City Council
|181.76 km2 (70.18 sq mi)
|120 m (390 ft)
|7,500/km2 (20,000/sq mi)
|€204.514 billion (2020)
|• Summer (DST)
|Click on the map for a fullscreen view
Milan is a leading alpha global city, with strengths in the fields of art, chemicals, commerce, design, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media (communication), services, research and tourism. Its business district hosts Italy's stock exchange (Italian: Borsa Italiana), and the headquarters of national and international banks and companies. In terms of GDP, Milan is the wealthiest city in Italy, has the third-largest economy among EU cities after Paris and Madrid, and is the wealthiest among EU non-capital cities. Milan is viewed along with Turin as the southernmost part of the Blue Banana urban development corridor (also known as the "European Megalopolis"), and one of the Four Motors for Europe. Milan is one of the international tourism destinations, appearing among the most visited cities in the world, ranking second in Italy after Rome, fifth in Europe and sixteenth in the world. Milan is a major cultural centre, with museums and art galleries that include some of the most important collections in the world, such as major works by Leonardo da Vinci. It also hosts numerous educational institutions, academies and universities, with 11% of the national total of enrolled students.
Founded around 590 BC under the name Medhelanon by a Celtic tribe belonging to the Insubres group and belonging to the Golasecca culture, it was conquered by the ancient Romans in 222 BC, who latinized the name of the city into Mediolanum. The city's role as a major political centre dates back to the late antiquity, when it served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire. From the 12th century until the 16th century, Milan was one of the largest European cities and a major trade and commercial centre; consequently, it became the capital of the Duchy of Milan, one of the greatest political, artistic and fashion forces in the Renaissance. Having become one of the main centres of the Italian Enlightenment during the early modern period, the city subsequently became the industrial and financial capital of modern Italy. Capital of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, after the Restoration it was among the most active centres of the Risorgimento, until its entry into the unified Kingdom of Italy.
Milan has been recognized as one of the world's four fashion capitals. Many of the most famous luxury fashion brands in the world have their headquarters in the city, including: Armani, Prada, Versace, Moschino, Valentino and Zegna. It also hosts several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, which are among the world's biggest in terms of revenue, visitors and growth. The city is served by many luxury hotels and is the fifth-most starred in the world by Michelin Guide. It hosted the Universal Exposition in 1906 and 2015. In the field of sports, Milan is home to two of Europe's most successful football teams, AC Milan and Inter Milan, and one of Europe's main basketball teams, Olimpia Milano. Milan will host the Winter Olympic and Paralympic games for the first time in 2026, together with Cortina d'Ampezzo.
The etymology of the name Milan (Lombard: Milan [miˈlãː]) remains uncertain. One theory holds that the Latin name Mediolanum comes from the Latin words medio (in the middle) and planus (plain). However, some scholars believe that lanum comes from the Celtic root lan, meaning an enclosure or demarcated territory (source of the Welsh word llan, meaning "a sanctuary or church", ultimately cognate to English/German Land) in which Celtic communities used to build shrines.
Hence Mediolanum could signify the central town or sanctuary of a Celtic tribe. Indeed, about sixty Gallo-Roman sites in France bore the name "Mediolanum", for example: Saintes (Mediolanum Santonum) and Évreux (Mediolanum Aulercorum). In addition, another theory links the name to the scrofa semilanuta ("half-woolly sow") an ancient emblem of the city, fancifully accounted for in Andrea Alciato's Emblemata (1584), beneath a woodcut of the first raising of the city walls, where a boar is seen lifted from the excavation, and the etymology of Mediolanum given as "half-wool", explained in Latin and in French.
According to this theory, the foundation of Milan is credited to two Celtic peoples, the Bituriges and the Aedui, having as their emblems a ram and a boar; therefore "The city's symbol is a wool-bearing boar, an animal of double form, here with sharp bristles, there with sleek wool." Alciato credits Ambrose for his account.
Celtic era and Roman times
A Celtic tribe belonging to the Insubres group and belonging to the Golasecca culture founded a settlement around 590 BC under the name Medhelanon According to the legend reported by Livy (writing between 27 and 9 BC), the Gaulish king Ambicatus sent his nephew Bellovesus into northern Italy at the head of a party drawn from various Gaulish tribes; Bellovesus allegedly founded the settlement in the times of the Roman monarchy, during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus. Tarquin is traditionally recorded as reigning from 616 to 579 BC, according to ancient Roman historian Titus Livy.
During the Roman Republic, the Romans, led by consul Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, fought the Insubres and captured the settlement in 222 BC. The chief of the Insubres then submitted to Rome, giving the Romans control of the settlement. The Romans eventually conquered the entirety of the region, calling the new province "Cisalpine Gaul" (Latin: Gallia Cisalpina) – "Gaul this side of the Alps" – and may have given the city its Latinized name of Mediolanum: in Gaulish *medio- meant "middle, centre" and the name element -lanon is the Celtic equivalent of Latin -planum "plain", thus *Mediolanon (Latinized as Mediolānum) meant "(settlement) in the midst of the plain".
In 286, the Roman Emperor Diocletian moved the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Rome to Mediolanum. Diocletian himself chose to reside at Nicomedia in the Eastern Empire, leaving his colleague Maximian at Milan.
Maximian built several gigantic monuments: the large circus (470 × 85 metres), the thermae or "Baths of Hercules", a large complex of imperial palaces and other services and buildings of which few visible traces remain. Maximian increased the city area to 375 acres by surrounding it with a new, larger stone wall (about 4.5 km long) with many 24-sided towers. The monumental area had twin towers; the one included later in the construction of the convent of San Maurizio Maggiore remains 16.6 m high.
The Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan from Mediolanum in 313 AD, granting tolerance to all religions within the Empire, thus paving the way for Christianity to become the dominant religion of Roman Europe. Constantine was in Mediolanum to celebrate the wedding of his sister to the Eastern Emperor, Licinius.
In 402, the Visigoths besieged the city and the Emperor Honorius moved the Imperial residence to Ravenna. In 452 Attila in his turn besieged Mediolanum, but the real break with the city's Imperial past came in 539, during the Gothic War, when Uraia (a nephew of Witiges, formerly King of the Italian Ostrogoths) laid Mediolanum to waste with great loss of life. The Lombards took Ticinum as their capital in 572 (renaming it Papia – the modern Pavia), and left early-medieval Milan to the governance of its archbishops.
After the siege of the city by the Visigoths in 402, the imperial residence moved to Ravenna. Attila, King of the Huns, sacked and devastated the city in 452 AD. In 539 the Ostrogoths conquered and destroyed Milan during the Gothic War against Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. In the summer of 569 the Lombards (from whom the name of the Italian region Lombardy derives), conquered Milan, overpowering the small Byzantine garrison left for its defence. Some Roman structures remained in use in Milan under Lombard rule. Milan surrendered to Charlemagne and the Franks in 774.
The 11th century saw a reaction against the control of the Holy Roman Emperors. City-states emerged in northern Italy, an expression of the new political power of the cities and their will to fight against all feudal powers. Milan was no exception. It did not take long, however, for the Italian city-states to begin fighting each other to try to limit neighbouring powers. The Milanese destroyed Lodi and continuously warred with Pavia, Cremona and Como, who in turn asked Frederick I Barbarossa for help. In a sally they captured Empress Beatrice and forced her to ride a donkey backwards through the city until getting out. These brought the destruction of much of Milan in 1162.
In 1395, Gian Galeazzo Visconti became the first Duke of Milan upon receiving the title from Wenceslaus, King of the Romans. In 1447 Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, died without a male heir; following the end of the Visconti line, the Ambrosian Republic was established; it took its name from St. Ambrose, the popular patron saint of the city. Both the Guelph and the Ghibelline factions worked together to bring about the Ambrosian Republic in Milan. Nonetheless, the Republic collapsed when, in 1450, Milan was conquered by Francesco I of the House of Sforza, which made Milan one of the leading cities of the Italian Renaissance.
Milan's last independent ruler, Lodovico il Moro, requested the aid of Charles VIII of France against the other Italian states, eventually unleashing the Italian Wars. The king's cousin, Louis of Orléans, took part in the expedition and realized most of Italy was virtually defenseless. This prompted him to come back a few years later in 1500, and claim the Duchy of Milan for himself, his grandmother having been a member of the ruling Visconti family. At that time, Milan was also defended by Swiss mercenaries. After the victory of Louis's successor François I over the Swiss at the Battle of Marignan, the duchy was promised to the French king François I. When the Spanish Habsburg Emperor Charles V defeated François I at the Battle of Pavia in 1525, northern Italy, including Milan, passed to Habsburg Spain.
In 1556, Charles V abdicated in favour of his son Philip II and his brother Ferdinand I. Charles's Italian possessions, including Milan, passed to Philip II and remained with the Spanish line of Habsburgs, while Ferdinand's Austrian line of Habsburgs ruled the Holy Roman Empire. The Great Plague of Milan in 1629–31, that claimed the lives of an estimated 60,000 people out of a population of 130,000, caused unprecedented devastation in the city and was effectively described by Alessandro Manzoni in his masterpiece "The Betrothed". This episode was seen by many as the symbol of Spanish bad rule and decadence and is considered one of the last outbreaks of the centuries-long pandemic of plague that began with the Black Death.
In 1700, the Spanish line of Habsburgs was extinguished with the death of Charles II. After his death, the War of the Spanish Succession began in 1701. In 1706, the French were defeated in Ramillies and Turin and were forced to yield northern Italy to the Austrian Habsburgs. In 1713–1714 the Treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt formally confirmed Austrian sovereignty over most of Habsburg Spain's Italian possessions including Lombardy and its capital, Milan. Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796, and Milan was declared capital of the Cisalpine Republic. Later, he declared Milan capital of the Kingdom of Italy and was crowned King of Italy in the cathedral. Once Napoleon's occupation ended, the Congress of Vienna returned Lombardy, and Milan, to Austrian control in 1815.
Late modern and contemporary
On 18 March 1848, Milan efficaciously rebelled against Austrian rule, during the so-called "Five Days" (Italian: Le Cinque Giornate), that forced Field Marshal Radetzky to temporarily withdraw from the city. The bordering Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia sent troops in order to protect the insurgents and organised a plebiscite that ratified by a huge majority the unification of Lombardy with Piedmont-Sardinia. But just a few months later the Austrians were able to send fresh forces that routed the Piedmontese army at the Battle of Custoza on 24 July and to reassert Austrian control over northern Italy. About ten years later, however, Italian nationalist politicians, officers and intellectuals such as Cavour, Garibaldi and Mazzini were able to gather a huge consensus and to pressure the monarchy to forge an alliance with the new French Empire of Napoleon III in order to defeat Austria and establish a large Italian state in the region. At the Battle of Solferino in 1859 French and Italian troops heavily defeated the Austrians that retreated under the Quadrilateral line. Following this battle, Milan and the rest of Lombardy were incorporated into Piedmont-Sardinia, which then proceeded to annex all the other Italian statlets and proclaim the birth of the Kingdom of Italy on 17 March 1861.
The political unification of Italy enhanced Milan's economic dominance over northern Italy. A dense rail network, whose construction had started under Austrian patronage, was completed in a brief time, making Milan the rail hub of northern Italy and, with the opening of the Gotthard (1882) and Simplon (1906) railway tunnels, the major South European rail hub for goods and passenger transport. Indeed, Milan and Venice were among the main stops of the Orient Express that started operating from 1919. Abundant hydroelectric resources allowed the development of a strong steel and textile sector and, as Milanese banks dominated Italy's financial sphere, the city became the country's leading financial centre. In May 1898, Milan was shaken by the Bava Beccaris massacre, a riot related to soaring cost of living.
Milan's northern location in Italy closer to Europe, secured also a leading role for the city on the political scene. It was in Milan that Benito Mussolini built his political and journalistic careers, and his fascist Blackshirts rallied for the first time in the city's Piazza San Sepolcro; here the future Fascist dictator launched his March on Rome on 28 October 1922. During the Second World War Milan's large industrial and transport facilities suffered extensive damage from Allied bombings that often also hit residential districts. When Italy surrendered in 1943, German forces occupied and plundered most of northern Italy, fueling the birth of a massive resistance guerrilla movement. On 29 April 1945, the American 1st Armored Division was advancing on Milan but, before it arrived, the Italian resistance seized control of the city and executed Mussolini along with his mistress and several regime officers, that were later hanged and exposed in Piazzale Loreto, where one year before some resistance members had been executed.
During the post-war economic boom, the reconstruction effort and the so-called Italian economic miracle attracted a large wave of internal migration (especially from rural areas of southern Italy) to Milan. The population grew from 1.3 million in 1951 to 1.7 million in 1967. During this period, Milan was rapidly rebuilt, with the construction of several innovative and modernist skyscrapers, such as the Torre Velasca and the Pirelli Tower, that soon became the symbols of this new era of prosperity. The economic prosperity was, however, overshadowed in the late 1960s and early 1970s during the so-called Years of Lead, when Milan witnessed an unprecedented wave of street violence, labour strikes and political terrorism. The apex of this period of turmoil occurred on 12 December 1969, when a bomb exploded at the National Agrarian Bank in Piazza Fontana, killing 17 people and injuring 88.
In the 1980s, with the international success of Milanese houses (like Armani, Prada, Versace, Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana), Milan became one of the world's fashion capitals. The city saw also a marked rise in international tourism, notably from America and Japan, while the stock exchange increased its market capitalisation more than five-fold. This period led the mass media to nickname the metropolis "Milano da bere", literally "Milan to be drunk". However, in the 1990s, Milan was badly affected by Tangentopoli, a political scandal in which many politicians and businessmen were tried for corruption. The city was also affected by a severe financial crisis and a steady decline in textiles, automobile and steel production. Berlusconi's Milano 2 and Milano 3 projects were the most important housing projects of the 1980s and 1990s in Milan and brought to the city new economical and social energy.
In the early 21st century, Milan underwent a series of sweeping redevelopments over huge former industrial areas. Two new business districts, Porta Nuova and CityLife, were built in the space of a decade, radically changing the skyline of the city. Its exhibition centre moved to a much larger site in Rho. The long decline in traditional manufacturing has been overshadowed by a great expansion of publishing, finance, banking, fashion design, information technology, logistics and tourism. The city's decades-long population decline seems to have partially reverted in recent years, as the comune gained about 100,000 new residents since the last census. The successful re-branding of the city as a global capital of innovation has been instrumental in its successful bids for hosting large international events such as 2015 Expo and 2026 Winter Olympics.