Italy's Metropolis - All You Need to Know about MILAN

Italy's economic engine, fashion metropolis, famous opera house, two successful football clubs, seven universities with almost 200,000 students, gourmet paradise, financial centre and, most recently, bicycle city: Milan has an incredible number of faces. Here you can find out everything you need to know about the capital of Lombardy, Italy's second-largest city..

Milan today

With about 1.4 million people, Milan is the second largest city in Italy and the capital of the Lombardy region. The metropolitan city, the Città Metropolitana di Milano, is also the largest conurbation in Italy with about 3.3 million inhabitants.

Milan is Italy's leading cultural, media and fashion metropolis and home to the Italian stock exchange. Seven universities with almost 50 faculties are located here. 11 percent of all students go to university here, about 185,000 young people. Empress Maria Theresa of Austria founded the Milan Academy of Fine Arts in 1776. Since 1807 you can study music at the "Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi", today Italy's largest conservatoire with almost 2,000 students.

Trade fair city & millions of visitors

Milan is Europe's largest trade fair city. Thanks to its favourable location on the Po Valley, the metropolis is also a hub of the rail and motorway network. The A1 (to Rome and Naples), A4 (Turin-Trieste), A7 (to Genoa) and A8/A9 (link to Switzerland) motorways intersect here. In addition, Milan is Italy's second largest hub with three international airports.

From the 12th to the 19th century, Milan was also connected to the whole of northern Italy by waterways called navigli. The system of canals and waterways, which took seven centuries to build, reached as far as the Adriatic Sea, Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, as far as Switzerland and connected Milan with northern Europe. Some canals no longer exist today. The area around the Naviglio Grande is now a popular nightlife district with many restaurants and bars.

Highlights for tourists

More than six million visitors come to Milan every year. The city offers UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Milan Cathedral and the Dominican Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, La Scala Opera House, gourmet restaurants, historic buildings and works of art, museums and galleries, plus endless shopping.

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The Cathedral of Milan


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The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.


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The White Wild Sow and Milan: The Story

A white wild sow is said to have been decisive for the current location of Milan. According to legend, in 600 BC a magical sow appeared to the Gallic king Bellovesco on this very spot. Since then, the white wild sow has been the first symbol of the city, as can still be seen today in the Piazza Mercanti.

The Romans conquered Milan in the 2nd century BC. The city, which was then called Mediolanum (Latin for centrally located), was the capital of the western Roman Empire from 286 to 402. A 4.5-kilometre-long city wall with a moat and six city gates with drawbridges protected the city at that time.

The luxury of the Romans

The city flourished under the Romans and became a rich city. The Romans even had thermal baths built on an area of 14,500 square metres. (Sports competitions took place on the 450 x 85 metre Circo Mediolanum. There was also a giant theatre with a diameter of 95 metres and room for 8,000 guests.

In 1126, King Barbarossa captured the city and destroyed it almost completely, except for a few churches.

Due to its central location in the Po Valley, Milan was repeatedly the target of conquests. The city has been under German, Austrian, Spanish and French influence throughout its history. After the founding of Italy in 1861, Milan grew to become the country's largest industrial city.

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Shopping flair à la MILANO

The Green Policy of Milan

Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region, the most populous region in Italy. Politically, the city is unique in Italy. While the Greens are only a marginal presence throughout the country, Mayor Beppe Sala won his re-election in October 2021 handily against the right-wing, which is traditionally strong in the north.

During the pandemic, Sala, who was still a non-partisan, massively expanded the cycle paths in Milan, tripling the number of cyclists. By 2030 the city should be completely pollution-free and thust a model for Italy and the whole world. Here, there are bike and scooter sharing systems, including more than 20 percent e-bikes. By 2030, all public buses are to be electric.

A role model for Europe?

The concept of the "city of 15 minutes" is currently being massively implemented. Sala wants to turn the neighbourhoods into centres of everyday life, with schools, medical care, parks and sports. Traffic should then be reduced automatically. Currently, the city is also renovating the 70,000 social housing units and making them asbestos-free. Every 10th Milanese lives in social housing.

In addition, the city administration is to be further digitalised. Already today, a good 70 per cent of the documents for citizens can be downloaded digitally.


Your accommodation in Milan

Concentrated culture in Milan

Everything from MILANO is world-famous: the art, the opera, the music, furthermore the fashion... and the museums. The famous mural The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci can be seen today in the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The Pinacoteca di Brera, located in the Baroque Palazzo di Brera, is considered the most important picture gallery in the city.

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Simply magnificent! The Teatro alla Scala in Milan
Photo by Alexandro D'Elia on

Artists such as Gioseppe Caimo, Giuseppe Verdi and Giulio Gatti-Casazza lived and composed in Milan. The Teatro alla Scala, also known for short as the Scalais one of the most famous and important opera houses in the world. Since its opening in 1778, many first performances of famous operas have taken place, for example Nabucco by Verdi or Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. The Piccolo Teatro di Milano, rich in tradition, was also the first theatre in Italy with a permanent ensemble.

Technology, Fashion & More

For museums, there is the complete programme in Milan. The Natural History Museum of Milan (founded in 1838) shows exhibits from natural history. The National Museum of Science and Technology "Leonardo da Vinci" is the largest technology museum in Italy with 25,000 m². The Castello Sforzesco is also home to Milan's largest museum complex with nine museums and art galleries, from antiquity to archaeology to art. And that was just a small selection.

Alongside Paris, New York and London, Milan is one of the world's leading fashion capitals. Many famous Italian fashion labels such as Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Valentino and Versace are at home in Milan. Twice a year, Milan Fashion Week takes place, which is an important event in the international fashion scene.

green leafed trees near concrete buildings
Panoramic view of Milan: the centre is dominated by skyscrapers
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

The cityscape of Milan's centre is characterised by skyscrapers and high-rise complexes, some of which are listed or have won architectural awards. These include the Torre Velasca, the Pirelli skyscraper, the Torre Unicredit and the green towers Bosco Verticale.

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Italy's economic engine

In economic, financial and industrial matters, Milan is Italy's clear No. 1. Of the 200 largest companies in the country, about half are based here. Important economic sectors are the automotive industry (including Alfa Romeo and Pirelli), the fashion and clothing industry, the chemical industry, medical technology and biotechnology, the media industry, mechanical engineering and the financial sector.

As the seat of the Italian Stock Exchange and various banks as well as up-and-coming FinTech companies, the city is the financial centre of the country. Years ago, the L.O.V.E. sculpture in front of the Milan Stock Exchange caused controversy in the metropolis. In the meantime, however, the middle finger is part of the cityscape and has become a tourist attraction as an anti-capitalist statemen.

Lombardy, on the road, February 2022, winter, photo Stephanei Kayser
The sculpture L.O.V.E. has stood directly in front of the Milan Stock Exchange since 2010

Milan is the media capital of Italy. The important Italian media groups, television stations, publishing houses and news agencies are located here, as well as a branch of the public broadcaster (RAI). The internet industry has also settled in Milan. The city is the largest trade fair centre in Europe. The Milan Furniture Fair is the largest and most important of its kind in the world.

With more than 3 million tourists per year, the industry also makes an important contribution to the city's economic performance. There are more than 400 hotels, almost as many restaurants, pubs, snack bars and cafés.


Football and more

The city is home to two internationally successful football clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Both clubs play in the highest national league, Serie A. Milan is the only city to be home to two Champions League winners.

In rugby, popular in northern Italy, the Amatori Rugby Milano compete for Milan. So far, they have brought home 18 championships. The city also leads Italy in basketball with Olimia Milano, 26 national champions, three times European Cup champions. The local ice hockey clubs are similarly successful.

The famous Monza racetrack is located north of the city. With the Giro d'Italia, Italy's biggest road cycling race usually ends in Milan. In addition, with Milan-Sanremo, the longest one-day race in professional cycling is started in the centre of the city.

With Cortina d'Ampezzo, Milan is the venue for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Milan's cult railway


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The Pigeons of Milan


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written by Pietro Perroni, first published on 12 November 2022