A Minute History Of Milan

Milan, my hometown, is the capital of the Lombardy region, in northern Italy, and it’s the largest metropolitan area and second most populous city of the country, after Rome. The city’s population proper is 1,369,000 and that of the Metropolitan City of Milan is 3,219,000. Being the second richest city in the European Union (after Paris), it is often referred to as the city of the future.  Milan is also the capital of Italian fashion, design, business, finance, entertainment, after-work drinks and everything that’s considered new and modern.


Around 400 BC, the city was occupied by a Celtic tribe and in 222 BC it was conquered by the Romans, who renamed it “Mediolanum”. The famous Edict of Constantine was issued there in 313 AD, ending the persecution against Christians. The 5th century marked the beginning of a series of barbarian invasions that would eventually end in the 11th century.


Milan Rakbo Tram

A period of peace followed for Milan, which allowed the city to become the center of trade due to its position, and later a duchy in power. In 1262 Ottone Visconti became Archbishop of Milan. His family ruled the city and his possessions until the 15th century, during the famous period of struggle between two political factions, the Guelphs (who supported the Pope) and the Ghibellines (The Imperial Party).

During the Italian Wars, a series of conflict from 1494 to 1559 involved most of the city-states of the country plus the Papal States, the Republic of Venice and, later, most of the major states of Western Europe. Milan’s last independent ruler, Ludovico II  Moro, called French King Charles VIII in the hopes that France might become an ally and help end the Italian Wars.

Then, in 1525, northern Italy and Milan passed to Hasburg Spain and, in 1713-1714, the Austrian powers conquered them. Meanwhile, in 1629, the Great Plague of Milan killed 60,000 people out of a population of 130,000.

Eventually, Napoleon invaded Italy in 1796 and Milan was declared capital of the Cisalpine Republic. Once his occupation ended, Lombardy and Milan returned to Austrian control until 1848, when the Milanese rebelled during the so-called “Five Days.

Milan and the rest of Lombardy were finally incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia and in 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was born. Milan then became the commercial and financial center of northern Italy.


Milan Rakbo Road

During the Second World War, Milan suffered extensive damage from Allied bombings.  When Italy surrendered, German forces occupied most of the northern part until 1945. On 29 April 1945, the corpses of Mussolini and other Fascist leaders were hanged in Piazzale Loreto.

During the post-war economic boom, Milan experienced a large wave of internal migration and the population  grew from 1.3 million to 1.7 million. The city was then largely reconstructed with skyscrapers, such as the Pirelli Tower.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, during the “Years of Lead”, Milan witnessed an unprecedented wave of street violence and political terrorism (for example, a bomb explosion at the National Agrarian Bank in Piazza Fontana).

In the 1980s, Milanese design houses like Armani, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana became international successes, and so turned the city into one of the world’s fashion capitals.



Recently, new business districts such as Porta Nuova and CityLife have been constructed and Milan has also sought to develop other sources of revenue, including publishing, banking, information technology, transport and tourism. It is also well known for several international events and fairs, such as the Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, but also for two of Europe’s major football teams, A.C. Milan and F.C. Internazionale, and one of Italy’s major basketball teams, Olimpia Milano.

Other highlights of the city are in the arts (Milan Cathedral, Sforza Castle, La Scala Opera House and Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting), commerce, healthcare, education, media, services and research.

Profile photo of Carolina Guerra


Carolina Guerra

Carolina is an Italian student about to graduate from high school in Milan, her hometown. She was an exchange student in the US and loves to travel all around the world, sharing most of her journeys on Instagram. You can always catch her singing, dancing, writing or eating. She also has a passion for cinema and dogs.


  1. Oh wow — thank you so much for sharing these treasures of history of your hometown! Milan is a place that I really hope to get a chance to visit someday!

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