THE CITY OF MILAN, LOMBARDY

The City of Milan is the second-most populous city in Italy and the capital of Lombardy Region. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area is the 5th largest in the EU with an estimated population of aover 5 million. The massive suburban sprawl that followed the post-war boom of the 1950s–60s and the growth of a vast commuter belt, suggest that socio-economic linkages have expanded well beyond the boundaries of its administrative limits and its agglomeration, creating a polycentric metropolitan area of 7-10 million people, stretching over the former provinces of Milan, Bergamo, Como, Lecco, Lodi, Monza and Brianza, Pavia, Varese, Novara. It has been suggested that the Milan metropolitan region is part of the so-called Blue Banana, the area of Europe with the highest population and industrial density, and one of the Four Motors for Europe.

Milan was founded by the Insubres, a Celtic people. The city was later conquered by the Romans as Mediolanum, eventually becoming the capital of the Western Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, Milan flourished as a commercial and banking center. In the course of the following centuries, it had been alternatively dominated by France, Habsburg Spain, and Austria, until 1859 when the city joined the rising Kingdom of Italy. During the early 1900s, Milan led the industrialization development of the young nation, being at the very center of the economic, social, and political debate. Badly affected by World War II, and suffering a harsh Nazi occupation, the city became the main centre of the Italian Resistance. In post-war years, the city enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, attracting large flows of workers from Southern Italy. During the last decades, Milan has seen a dramatic rise in the number of international immigrants, and in 2011 more than one sixth of its population is foreign born.

Milan is the main industrial, commercial, and financial centre of Italy and a leading global city. Its business district hosts the Borsa Italiana (Italy's main stock exchange) and the headquarters of the largest national banks and companies. The city is a major world fashion and design capital. Milan's museums, theatres and landmarks (including the Milan Cathedral, the fifth largest cathedral in the world, and Santa Maria delle Grazie, decorated with Leonardo da Vinci paintings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) attracts over 6 million annual visitors. It hosts numerous cultural institutions and universities, supporting almost 11 percent of the national student total. The city is also well known for several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, the largest of its kind in the world, and is site of the 2015 Universal Exposition, and Design World Expo in 2016. Milan is home to two of the world's major soccer teams, A.C. Milan and F.C. Internazionale Milano.

WHAT TO SEE IN MILAN

There are only few remains of the ancient Roman colony, notably the well-preserved Colonne di San Lorenzo. During the second half of the 4th century, Saint Ambrose, as bishop of Milan, had a strong influence on the layout of the city, reshaping the centre (although the cathedral and baptistery built in Roman times are now lost) and building the great basilicas at the city gates: Sant'Ambrogio, San Nazaro in Brolo, San Simpliciano and Sant'Eustorgio, which still stand, refurbished over the centuries, as some of the finest and most important churches in Milan. Milan's Cathedral, built between 1386 and 1577, is the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the most important example of Gothic architecture in Italy. The gilt bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, placed in 1774 on the highest pinnacle of the Duomo, soon became one of the most enduring symbols of Milan. In the 15th century, when the Sforza ruled the city, an old Viscontean fortress was enlarged and embellished to become the Castello Sforzesco, the seat of an elegant Renaissance court surrounded by a walled hunting park. Notable architects involved in the project included the Florentine Filarete, who was commissioned to build the high central entrance tower, and the military specialist Bartolomeo Gadio. 'The Castle Reconstructed by the Sforza', Castello Sforzesco website. The alliance between Francesco Sforza and Florence's Cosimo de' Medici bore to Milan Tuscan models of Renaissance architecture, apparent in the Ospedale Maggiore and Bramante's work in the city, which includes Santa Maria presso San Satiro (a reconstruction of a small 9th-century church), the tribune of Santa Maria delle Grazie and three cloisters for Sant'Ambrogio. The Counter-Reformation in the 16th-17th century was also the period of Spanish domination and was marked by two powerful figures: Saint Charles Borromeo and his cousin, Cardinal Federico Borromeo. Not only did they impose themselves as moral guides to the people of Milan, but they also gave a great impulse to culture, with the creation of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, in a building designed by Francesco Maria Ricchino, and the nearby Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. Many notable churches and Baroque mansions were built in the city during this period by the architects, Pellegrino Tibaldi, Galeazzo Alessi and Ricchino himself. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria was responsible for the significant renovations carried out in Milan during the 18th century. This profound urban and artistic renewal included the establishment of Teatro alla Scala, inaugurated in 1778 and today one of the world's most famous opera houses, and the renovation of the Royal Palace. The late 1700s Palazzo Belgioioso by Giuseppe Piermarini and Royal Villa of Milan by Leopoldo Pollack, later the official residence of Austrian vice-roys, are often regarded among the best examples of Neoclassical architecture in Lombardy.

The Napoleonic rule of the city in 1805-1814, having established Milan as the capital of a satellite Kingdom of Italy, took steps in order to reshape it accordingly to its new status, with the construction of large boulevards, new squares ( Porta Ticinese by Luigi Cagnola and Foro Bonaparte by Giovanni Antonio Antolini) and cultural institutions ( Art Gallery and the Academy of Fine Arts). The massive Arch of Peace, situated at the bottom of Corso Sempione, are often compared to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In the second half of the 19th century, Milan quickly became the main industrial center in of the new Italian nation, drawing inspiration from the great European capitals that were hubs of the second industrial revolution. The great Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, realized by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877 to celebrate Vittorio Emanuele II, is a covered passage with a glass and cast iron roof, inspired by the Burlington Arcade in London. Another late 19th century eclectic monument in the city is the Cimitero Monumentale graveyard, built in a Neo-Romanesque style between 1863 and 1866.

The tumultuous period of early 20th century brought several, radical innovations in Milanese architecture. Art Nouveau, also known as Liberty in Italy, is recognisable in Palazzo Castiglioni, built by architect Giuseppe Sommaruga between 1901 and 1904. Other remarkable examples include Hotel Corso and Berri-Meregalli house, the latter built in a traditional Milanese Art Nouveau style combined with elements of neo-Romanesque and Gothic revival architecture, regarded as one of the last such types of architecture in the city. A new, more eclectic form of architecture can be seen in buildings such as Castello Cova, built the 1910s in a distinctly neo-medieval style, evoking the architectural trends of the past. An important example of Art Deco, which blended such styles with Fascist architecture, is the massive Central railway station inaugurated in 1931. The post–World War II period saw rapid reconstruction and fast economic growth, accompanied by a nearly two-fold increase in population. In the 1950s and 1960s, a strong demand for new residential and commercial areas drove to extreme urban expansion, that has produced some of the major milestones in the city's architectural history, including Gio Ponti's Pirelli Tower (1956–60), Velasca Tower (1956–58), and the creation of brand new residential satellite towns, as well as huge amounts of low quality public housings. In recent years, de-industrialization, urban decay and gentrification led to a massive urban renewal of former industrial areas, that have been transformed into modern residential and financial districts, notably Porta Nuova in downtown Milan and FieraMilano in the suburb of Rho. In addition, the old exhibition area is being completely reshaped according to the Citylife regeneration project, featuring residential areas, museums, an urban park and three skyscrapers designed by top rated international architects, from whom they are named after: the 202vmeter  Isozaki Tower (when completed, the tallest building in Italy), the twisted Hadid Tower and the curved Libeskind Tower.

Milan is home to many cultural institutions, museums and art galleries, that account for about a tenth of the national total of visitors and recepits. The Pinacoteca di Brera is one of Milan's most important art galleries. It contains one of the foremost collections of Italian painting, including masterpieces such as the Brera Madonna by Piero della Francesca. The Castello Sforzesco hosts numerous art collections and exhibitions, especially statues, ancient arms and furnitures, as well as the Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, with an art collection including Michelangelo's last sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà, Andrea Mantegna's Trivulzio Madonna and Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Trivulzianus manuscript. The Castello complex also includes The Museum of Ancient Art, The Furniture Museum, The Museum of Musical Instruments and the Applied Arts Collection, The Egyptian and Prehistoric sections of the Archaeological Museum and the Achille Bertarelli Print Collection.

Milan's figurative art flourished in the Middle-Ages, and with the Visconti family being major patrons of the arts, the city became an important centre of Gothic art and architecture ( Milan Cathedral being the city's most formidable work of Gothic architecture). Leonardo worked in Milan from 1482 until 1499. He was commissioned to paint the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The city was affected by the Baroque in the 17th and 18th centuries, and hosted numerous formidable artists, architects and painters of that period, such as Caravaggio and Francesco Hayez, which several important works are hosted in Brera Academy. The Museum of Risorgimento is specialized on the history of Italian unification Its collections include iconic paintings like Baldassare Verazzi's Episode from the Five Days and Francesco Hayez's 1840 of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria. The Triennale is a design museum and events venue located in Palazzo dell'Arte, in Sempione Park. It hosts exhibitions and events highlighting contemporary Italian design, urban planning, architecture, music, and media arts, emphasizing the relationship between art and industry.

Milan in the 20th century was the epicenter of the Futurist artistic movement. Filippo Marinetti, the founder of Italian Futurism wrote in his 1909 " Futurist Manifesto" (in Italian, Manifesto Futuristico), that Milan was "grande...tradizionale e futurista" ("grand...traditional and futuristic", in English). Umberto Boccioni was also an important Futurism artist who worked in the city.Today, Milan remains a major international hub of modern and contemporary art, with numerous modern art galleries. The Modern Art Gallery, situated in the Royal Villa, hosts collections of Italian and European painting from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. The Museo del Novecento, situated in the Palazzo dell'Arengario, is one of the most important art galleries in Italy about 20th-century art; of particular relevance are the sections dedicated to Futurism, Spatialism and Arte povera. Milan is home to many public art projects, with a variety of works that range from sculptures to murals to pieces by internationally renowned artists, including Arman, Francesco Barzaghi, Alberto Burri, Pietro Cascella, Maurizio Cattelan, Leonardo Da Vinci, Giorgio de Chirico, Claes Oldenburg, Igor Mitoraj, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Aldo Rossi, Domenico Trentacoste.

 

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