Milan (Italian: Milano; Milanese dialect: Milán) is the main city in northern Italy, and is located in the plains of Lombardy, the most populated and developed of Italian regions. The city proper has about 1.3 million inhabitants (2004), but when including the surrounding metropolitan area the population of the conurbation totals more than 4.5 million, and the Commuting Basin (Greater Milan, more than 70 km large and 60 km wide) totals about 7.5 million (the fourth most populated European metropolitan area after London, Paris and the Ruhr area). Milan is the capital of Lombardy and the economic-financial capital of Italy.
Milan's name has for many centuries been recorded as Mailand, which is still the German name of the city today. It comes from the Celtic Mid-lan (meaning "in the middle of the plain") and was known as Mediolanum by the Romans.
Its province lies in the western part of Lombardy; it covers an area of 1,982 km2 and has a population of 3,707,210 (2001 census); in 1991, the population was 3,738,685. The province comprises 188 communes, ranging in population (2001) from Milan Municipality (1,256,211) to Nosate (638); the city of Milan has lost 113,084 inhabitants (8.3 percent), from 1991 to 2001. The current mayor of Milan is Gabriele Albertini.
The town is famous for fashion firms and shops (via Montenapoleone) and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele on the Piazza Duomo, reputed to be the world's oldest shopping mall. Milan is one of the world capitals of fashion, like New York City or Paris. Another famed product of the city is the traditional Christmas sweet cake called Panettone. Milan and Lombardy are candidates for the Summer Olympic Games of 2016.
It is presumed Milan was originally founded by the Celts of Northern Italy around 600 BC and was conquered by the Romans around 222 BC, who gave it the name of Mediolanum. In the 4th century A.D., at the time of the bishop Saint Ambrose and emperor Theodosius I, the city became for a short time the capital of the Western Roman Empire.
After the Ostrogothic and Lombard periods, the city re-gained its importance in the 11th century and led other Italian cities in gaining semi-independence from the Holy Roman Empire. During the Plague of 1349 Milan was one of the few places in Europe that was not touched by the epidemic. During the Renaissance Milan was ruled by dukes of the Visconti and Sforza families, who had artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante at their service. After trying to conquer the rest of northern Italy in the 15th century, Milan was conquered by France, and then by Spain, in the early 16th century.
In the 18th century Austria replaced Spain as Milan's overlord, but during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, which saw the city annexed into the French satellite states of the Cisalpine Republic, which later transformed into the Kingdom of Italy. After the end of the wars, Milan was part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, under Austrian rule: the city became one of the main centers of Italian nationalism, reclaiming independence and the unification of Italy.
In 1859 (after the second of the Wars of Italian Independence) Austrian rule was ended by the Kingdom of Sardinia (which transformed into the kingdom of Italy in 1861).
Being a critical industrial centre of Italy, Milan was target of continuous carpet bombing during World War II. The city was bombed even after Pietro Badoglio surrendered to the allied forces in 1943. In fact Milan was part of Mussolini's puppet state Italian Social Republic and an important command centre of the German Army stationed in Italy. When war in Italy was finally over, April 25, 1945, Milan was heavily damaged and entire neighborhoods like Precotto and Turro were radically destroyed. After the war the city was reconstructed and became again an important financial and industrial centre of Italy. See also: Rulers of Milan.
Milan is the centre of many financial businesses, and its hinterland is an avant-garde industrial area. Fiera Milano (http://www.fieramilano.com/), the city's Exhibition Center and Trade Fair complex is one of the most important in the world. The new fairground, in the north-western suburb of Pero and Rho (opened in April 2005) is Europe's largest open construction project and makes Fiera Milano the largest trade fair complex in the world.
Culture & Art
A greengrocer in central Milan with a sign in Milanese, the local dialect, claiming to be 'the oldest greengrocer of Milan' (l'ortolán püsee vêcc de Milan)Milan is the most important town in the world for Opera lirica, with its famous Teatro alla Scala (La Scala, theatre).
The Biblioteca Ambrosiana contains drawings and notebooks by Leonardo da Vinci among its vast holdings of books, manuscripts and drawings and is one of the main repositories of European culture. The city is also the home of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts.
In the church Santa Maria delle Grazie can be found one of the most famous paintings of Leonardo da Vinci: The Last Supper (it: "Cenacolo").
The city has a large international airport known as Malpensa International Airport (MXP), located in Varese, Italy and connected at the downtown with the railway service called "Malpensa Express" (from Cadorna Station). Milan has also the Linate Airport (LIN) within the city limits (for european-national traffic) and connected with BUS line 73 (from S. Babila). The small Orio al Serio Airport (BGY) in Bergamo is used only for charter, low-cost, and cargo traffic. Put together, the three airports make Milan the first hub for passengers, traffic and cargo in Italy and an important air travel node of Europe, with more than 32 million passengers a year.