Before becoming the city of design and fashion and one of Italy's leading tourist destinations, Milan embraced many identities. Founded in 590 B.C. by the Celtic tribe of the Insubres, Medialanum became in turn the Western Roman capital, a stronghold of the Holy Roman Empire and a centre of the Italian Resistance. Running around the Lombard capital will take you through the different chapters of its history.
"A trip to Lombardy is "Milan" of happiness."
Milan's name, in French, sounds like "a thousand years"... With this play on words, Belgian author Gaëtan Faucer invites us with humour to discover the Lombard capital and its rich past.
Located in the north of Italy, in the Po plain, Milan was, according to legend, founded by two Etruscan commanders. Or maybe it was the Celtic tribe of Insubres or the Gallic Bituriges who were at the origin...
In 222 B.C., the city was conquered by the Romans before becoming one of the most important centres of Christianity. It became the capital of a duchy during the Middle Ages, held primarily by the Visconti family. Their name still appears on the ramparts of the Sforza castle, a 15th century fortress in the city centre. Over the centuries, the duchy passed through the hands of the great powers of the time: France, Spain, Austria.
In the mid-19th century, the political unification of Italy marked the beginning of the city's industrial domination of the north of the country. Major railway construction work was undertaken and the stone quarries of the region were exploited. The city of the most influential banks in the country, it became the leading financial centre in Italy. Today, it is the headquarters of the Italian Stock Exchange.
After the damage caused by the Second World War, Milan began a great architectural transformation, characterised by the construction of numerous skyscrapers and other large-scale buildings. Examples include the Citté della Moda and the Pirelli Tower, built near the central station.
The modernity of these new districts is accompanied by an older heritage of palaces, squares and museums. All of which will delight the eyes of the 2 million tourists who visit the city each year.
An exceptional heritage
In 2015, Milan was chosen to host the historic World Expo. This is certainly not unrelated to the prestige of its cultural heritage.
One of Milan's most famous monuments is undoubtedly its opera house: La Scala. Situated in the heart of the city, the theatre is a real landmark and was the setting for some of the world's most famous operas, such as Bellini's Norma.
In the Piazza del Duomo, the imposing cathedral with its 136 decorative spires is sure to impress Gothic art lovers. As you walk through it, you can also admire a statue of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy after its unification. Facing the cathedral, the Royal Palace of Milan was the residence of the House of Savoy, before being used as an exhibition centre.
Not far away, piazza Mercanti offers an equally prestigious panorama. An ancient medieval centre, the square is surrounded by 4 palaces, including the Palazzo dela Regione, a building built in the 13th century, which served as the seat of justice. Opposite is the Loggia degli Osii, a 14th century building built for Matthew I Visconti.
Capital of Fashion
Milan is undoubtedly the capital of design and fashion. Four mythical streets of the city, of which via Montenapoleone is a part, are home to the greatest luxury brands from Italy and the rest of the world; from Prada to Gucci to Levi. The whole area forms the Fashion Quadrilateral.
Since 1958, the Lombardy capital has hosted the famous Fashion Week twice a year. It's a time for spectacle, stunning outfits and celebrities.
The rest of the year, Milan continues to make a name for itself in terms of style: renowned fashion schools, the National Chamber of Fashion, a district dedicated to Milanese haute couture...
Finally, the Vittorio Emmanuele shopping gallery will dazzle many! This neoclassical, baroque-style shopping centre is nicknamed "the living room of Milan". It is distinguished by its magnificent glass roof by Giuseppe Mengoni, but also by its gourmet restaurants and luxury boutiques.
European Capital of Sport
In a completely different field, Milan is also a reference: football. Two clubs compete for the city: AC Milan and Inter Milan. After winning the Champions League several times each, they also both won the Club World Cup. And they made Milan the most successful city in terms of clubs, alongside Madrid.
It is in the Giuseppe-Meazza stadium, known as San Siro, that the athletes play their matches. The most intense of these, the Derby della Madonnina, sees the two clubs and their supporters compete against each other, all in mutual respect!
In cycling, Milan is not to be outdone either. After hosting the World Road Cycling Championships in 1926, it was also the starting point for the Milan-San Remo race and the scene of the last stage of the Giro d'Italia.
Run with Runnin'City from Piazza del Duomo to San Siro stadium!