Milan (Italian:Milano), Italy, the capital of Lombardy region. Milan is Italy's second largest city, ranking next to Rome. It is on the Lombard Plain midway between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps, about 300 miles (480 km) northwest of Rome. Its crossroads location has made it from ancient times one of the major cities of Europe.

Milan is Italy's chief industrial and commercial city. It has the nation's largest stock exchange and is the country's main banking center. Milan is also a fashion and design center, especially for clothing and home furnishings. Its silk market and trade fairs are among the largest in Europe. Manufactured products include textiles, furniture, motor vehicles, machine tools, machinery, and chemicals. Most of the industrial development has occurred in suburban areas, far from the central city. Milan is Italy's main railway hub and is served by numerous expressways, a subway system, and two international airports.

Milan's huge cathedral, begun in 1386 and completed more than 400 years later, is one of the great Gothic buildings of Europe. (For picture, Near the cathedral is the Galleria, a glass-covered, four-story arcade with shops, cafes, and offices. Other landmarks are the Sforza Castle and Brera Palace. The castle, dating from the mid-15th century, was once the residence of the ruling Sforza family and a part of the city wall.

Masterpieces of Italian art are exhibited in the Poldi-Pezzoli Museum and the picture galleries of Brera Palace, Sforza Castle, and the Ambrosian Library. The library is also a treasure house of rare books and ancient manuscripts. In a former monastery adjoining the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is Leonardo da Vinci's world-renowned painting of the Last Supper.

The Teatro alla Scala, or La Scala, dating from 1778, is one of the world's largest and most prestigious opera houses. Operatic memorabilia are housed in the La Scala Museum. The city has one of Italy's main symphony orchestras.

Milan is the home of two large universities: the University of Milan, a state institution; and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart. There are also a number of smaller colleges, conservatories, and institutes. The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology has widely varied educational exhibits.

History

Milan, known to the Romans as Mediolanum, was probably founded by the Gauls several centuries before coming under the control of Rome in 222 B.C.From 186 A.D.until 402, Milan served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire. Barbaric tribes of Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths overran Milan in the fifth and sixth centuries. In 569 it fell to the Lombards, who were migrating into northern Italy. By the 12th century Milan had become a largely self-governing city-state with a rich trade in silks and goods from the Far East. It was subject to direct rule by the Holy Roman Empire until 1176, when it and other cities in Lombardy achieved virtual independence.

From 1311 to 1447 Milan was ruled by dukes of the Visconti family, who extended its rule over many neighboring cities. When the Visconti line died out, Milan declared itself the “Ambrosian Republic,” but in 1450 the duchy was reestablished by the Sforza family. The French took Milan in 1499 but lost it in 1535 to the Hapsburgs in Spain; it was ceded to Austria in 1713. Napoleon Bonaparte made Milan the capital of the Cisalpine Republic (1796) and the Kingdom of Italy (1805), both of which were created by his orders, but upon his fall the city was returned to Austria. In 1861 Lombardy became part of the kingdom of Italy.

Milan was heavily bombed in World War II. It was rapidly rebuilt after the war.

Population: 1,303,925.