History of Milan







Scrivici/write to us

Art and Culture in Italy     Information about Italy   Accommodation in Italy   Hotels in Italy (1 to 5 Stars)  

History of Milan                                           (Back to Milan main information page)

Milan's history is a story of wealth, intrigue and conflict. Throughout its existence, Milan has known failure and incredible success and has faced both with a spirit and verve that makes this city one of the most famous in the world.

The first known inhabitants of Milan date back to the Bronze Age; the Gauls settled here in the 4th century B.C. and may have given the area the name place in the middle. The magnificent Romans conquered ' Mediolanum' at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. and it became an autonomous province (Municipium) under the control of Rome. Its importance grew considerably during the Imperial Age. Thanks to its geographical position at the centre of the Padana Plain, merchants and travellers would stop here en-route to the north of the Italian Peninsula, and the city became an important military defence against the blood-thirsty Barbarians who attacked from northern Europe. Milan was significant enough to become an Imperial residence in the 3rd century A.D. and halfway through the 4th century it became the most powerful city in Europe, after Rome. Christianity spread rapidly in the city, and Milan became one of the most important centres of the Christian faith. Traces of the Roman Empire can be found in places such as Piazza Cordusio.

Although Milan became less important as the Roman Empire declined and suffered an invasion by the Longobards in the 4th century, its rebirth began with Carolingian rule in the 8th century A.D. and the city went from strength to strength. Milan became an autonomous city and an increase in trade helped enormously. As a result of Milan's wealth, importance and expansion, a new wall with six gateways was built and some of these gates are still visible today. The city acquired a canal system, which was destined for defensive and agricultural purposes. The birth of this Navigli (Canal) system still defines the city's physiognomy today.

In the 15th century, power passed from the Visconti signoria to the Sforza signoria. The economy boomed, especially in terms of crafts, trade and agriculture. Architectural additions at this time include the Ospedale Maggiore (today the seat of the State University), the Lazzaretto (which holds the Rotonda della Besana and which is an open air cinema in the summer), and Castello Sforzesco, a listed building which exhibits works by Bramante and Filarete.

Prosperity can often bring jealousy and conflict; Milan found itself at the centre of continuous battles between France and the Austrian House of Hapsburg. The Sforza family came and went, and the city was finally reduced to a province under Spanish rule. At the beginning of the 17th century, the Black Death greatly reduced the population and threw the city into economic decline. The architectural highlight of this century was the construction of the Spanish Walls, which today surround Milan's historical centre.

At the beginning of the 18th century, control of the city passed from the Spanish to the House of Hapsburg. Milan began a new phase of expansion, characterized by fiscal and ecclesiastic reform, which culminated in exceptionally rich cultural activity around 1770. Milan fell under Napoleon Bonaparte's control, and the population boomed. It became the capital of the Cisalpine Republic and reaffirmed its cultural and economic importance. As part of Napoleon's architectural and urbanization plans the "cerchia dei bastoni" ring road was built around the historic centre. Other new roads were also built following Paris' system; these are still used today.

The Austrians again took control of Milan in the 19th century. Neither the educated middle classes nor the lower classes were happy about Austrian rule and in 1848 there was a popular insurrection, which ended with much bloodshed. The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861.

A great deal of the city centre dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when many areas were redesigned and rebuilt the city is filled with Fascist minimalist houses in impressive tree-lined avenues; workers' houses and dormitory districts , which were immense apartment blocks with no real shops or services nearby - these estates soon fell into disrepair.

Fortunately, Milan is being transformed from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan! Economic revival has made it a rich and interesting city. The "moral capital" of Italy is very different from all the artistic cities dotted around the country. It is the centre of economic activity in Italy; the country's Stock Exchange is based here. Milan's fame is also boosted by its role in the world of fashion, by the presence of many industries, its high-tech service sector, and its cultural innovation. Most of Italy's press are situated here. One of the major TV networks - the largest private network in Italy - has its headquarters at the gates of Milan.

 (Back to Milan main information page)




© italytravelescape.com