Milan’s history goes back to the 6th century when, according to Livy, the area now filled by the Italy’s second largest city was occupied by a Celtic village. The Celts were conquered by the Romans, and the village eventually assumed the name of Mediolanum subsequently to the Roman occupation (after 222 BC).
The heydays of Milan came when the city became the capital of the Western Roman Empire, in the year 286 AD. This period also coincided with the ascension of Christianity. Some of Milan’s most prestigious and oldest places of worship such as the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio and the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore were built during that age.
Milan lost its importance in the Roman world in the 6th century AD, around 539, when the barbarians pillaged the city. The Longobards established their kingdom (which lasted between 569 and 774), with the capital at Pavia, and Milan underwent a several centuries long period of political anonymity. A new age of affirmation came for Milan in the 12th century, when the city gained its independence in the context of the larger Comuni movement. Milan’s force on the cultural and political scene of the region was reinforced under the Visconti family, who ruled the city for about two centuries (between 1277 and 1447).
The Viscontis were the ones who restored Milan to its ancient primacy in the region. Two of the greatest architectural achievements of that age one can admire in heir full splendor even today refer to the Milan Cathedral and to the Sforza Castle. Partially, the Sforzas continued the work of the Viscontis, successfully managing to align Milan to the new cultural trends of Europe. The likes of Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci were constantly called to Milan in order to build churches and palaces.
After several centuries of Spanish, French and Austrian dominion, Milan became part of the Kingdom of Italy in the second half of the 19th century. Keep in mind landmarks like Teatro alla Scala, Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Brera were built during the modern era, and Napoleon himself was crowned king of Italy in the Milan Cathedral, being the one who ordered the works at the Duomo to be completed.
Milan was the city where the fascist party was founded. The ascension of dictatorship continued until World War Two subsequently to which, given the heavy damages caused by bombings, Milan underwent a period of major reconstruction. The city started to grow again, coming to be the second largest city of Italy, and a world renowned center of fashion, design, media and finance.