The most important city of northern Italy, capital of the province and of the Lombard region, Milan
stands at the center of the Padana Plain between the pre-Alps and the Po, and between the Adda and the Ticino rivers.
The ancient Mediolanum, as it has been called by the Romans since the third century B.C. (a name
of Celtic origin meaning "in the middle of the plains"), rose up around 400 B.C., the work of the Insubri
The Romans, led by Gneo Scipio, conquered it in 222 B.C. From the fourth to the fifth century it was the capital
of the Western Roman Empire, and thanks especially to Saint Ambrose, it became one of the most active centers of
the new Christian world.
Around the year 1000 it was already the most heavily populated city of Italy and became the most active center
of the Padana Plain because of its manufacturing of wool, silk, metals and armaments.
The period between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries coincides with the consolidation of the free Commune,
subsequently defeated by Frederick Barbarossa, who wanted to re-establish imperial dominion.
From the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries the city came under the Signoria of the Visconti and then of the
Sforza, to finally become capital of the Dukedom of Milan. At the end of the fifteenth century Louis XII, king
of France, took over the Dukedom. The French in 1535 gave way to the Spanish, who governed until the beginning
of the eighteenth century. In 1707 Austrian control began. With the exception of the Napoleonic interlude, the
Austrians ruled until the celebrated "Five Days of Milan" (1848), a revolutionary independence movement
that chased them out permanently.
During the Second World War Milan was one of the cities most heavily hit by aerial bombardment. Damages to historical
monuments were especially serious; some were partially destroyed forever, but most were later restored.
Since 1946 the recovery of industrial, economic and commercial activity has occurred rapidly, so that once more
Milan has become the center of Italy's productive and economic life.
ART & CULTURE
From the Roman period, only the Basilica of San Lorenzo and sixteen Corinthian columns from a third-century
building remain. Inscriptions, sculptures, architectural fragments and mosaics are conserved in the Archaeological
Museum. The Middle Ages was a period marked by fervent construction, which shows Milan's important role at the
time, along with Rome, Ravenna and Naples. Evidence of that period is seen in the basilicas of Sant' Ambrogio and
Sant' Eustorgio and the palace of La Ragione. The paintings of this period are mostly documented in miniatures
such as the codicils in Sant' Ambrogio and in the Ambrosian Library.
During the Renaissance, due mostly to the influence of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Francesco Sforza and Ludovico the
Moor, the major monuments of the city were built: the Duomo, the Maggiore Hospital, the Sforza Castle, Santa Maria
delle Grazie and San Satiro. Bramante and Leonardo were only two of the great artists at work at the time.
In the Baroque period the two most important masters were Fabio Mangone (the Ambrosian Palace and the Senate) and
Francesco Maria Richini (San Giuseppe Church, many palaces, the courtyard of the Brera Palace).
The most important paintings were the frescoes of Tiepolo in the Clerici and Archinti palaces and the canvasses
of A. Magnasco. During the Neoclassical period, the architecture gave the city its characteristic outline: in this
period the Villa Reale of Monza, La Scala Theater and the Belgioioso Palace, all by Giuseppe Piermarini, were built,
as well as the Peace Arch by L. Cagnola and the Arena by L. Canonica. In the present period, we are witnessing
a complete renovation of the architectural image of the city.
Rapid industrial development and increasing demands of traffic have brought about a radical transformation in urban
© 2008 by Appianline