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The capital of the Lombardia region Milano (or Milan) is also one of the most well known cities in all of Italy. Long known as the center of business, fashion, and politics, Milano has a business like feel about it. It has long been recognized as the financial heart of the Italian economy. One of the main distinctions of Milano is how the other Italians view this city. Apart from the Milanoese themselves most Italians have little good to say about Milano: "all the Milanoese do is work, all they care about is money, and they don’t indulge in what Italians consider "'La Dolce Vita', the good life." But tourists who continue to come in droves to see the great city do usually not share that opinion.

Originally settled for its strategic position near the Po river, Milano is the doorway to Italy and always has been, both for visitors and conquerors in its past. Mediolanum was its original Roman name, when it became the capital of the Roman Empire under the rule of Diocletian. From his rule and on to his successors Milano was the capital of choice. This included the Emperor Constantine who, in 313 in Milano, declared Christianity the official religion. During the next centuries the name was shortened to Mailand.

Visconti arms

The invasion of the Lombards from the north and their leadership was officially disbursed in the 1100’s with the rise of the Comune, or the communal government. But due to poor industrial expansion the communal style of government fell to the rise of the rich dukedoms. None richer than the Visconti family who ruled and passed control, through marriage and lack of male heirs, to the Sforza family. This is important to understand because Lodovico il Moro (1451-1508) of the Sforza family is revered as one of Italy’s greatest rulers. He hired Leonardo to Paint the Last supper, engineer schemes and design many elaborated structures around the city. Many of the sites around the city today are credited to Lodovico.

Milano, later in the late 1800’s became an important center of the Italian Risorgimento and rebellion. Largely because of the Milanoese writer Manzoni, who works instilled the sense of cultural unity, and used Milano as his backdrop. Even Later in the 1900’s Mussolini established the Fascist Party in Milano where he was later hanged in public for it.

With all of its industrial glory Milano has had to sacrifice tourism. Milano, unlike Roma, Venezia, and Firenze, can be seen in the matter of one to two days. The center of Milano is small that visitors can walk from site to site.

Duomo di Milano

The Duomo, Milano’s most famous site is located in the center of the city, it is one of the largest gothic churches in the world. Next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built from 1865-1877 the Galleria is a collection of shops, cafes, and restaurants all under a glass roof. The Palazzo Reale, one time home of the Visconti family, has now been converted to the Museo del Duomo.

Piazza della Scala

North of the Duomo is Milano’s arts section. In the Piazza della Scala is arguably Italy’s most famous opera house the La Scala (Arguably because the Teatro Regio in Parma was the home of Italy’s favorite composer Verdi). Further north of La Scala is Milano’s greatest Museum the Palazzo di Brera. It holds major works from all the great Renaissance painter from Raphael to Caravaggio.

Castello Sforzesco

In the very northwest corner of the historic center of Milano is the Castello Sforzesco. This Renaissance Castle replaced a castle built by the Visconti family on the same spot. The castle today houses the Civiche Raccolte d’Arte Antica, a collection of fine art and furniture including the unfinished Rondanini Pieta by Michelangelo.

Leonardo's Last Supper

No trip to Milano is complete without seeing Santa Maria delle Grazie, otherwise known as the Church that houses Leonardo’s Last Supper. The painting, which was done on dry wall is deteriorating. The room is now filled with high tech, air filtering machines to help preserve the wall as much as possible. The Church itself, a convent, is also very interesting.

It would be very difficult to mention Milano and not talk about its great propensity for fashion and style. Along with Paris and New York this city has long been recognized as one of the world’s most recognizable city in terms of fashion. Many of the world’s top designers and models call Milano their home. But if you aren’t in the industry visit Milano to get the latest styles and trends before the rest of the world. Just walk up and down Via Monte Napoleone, the headquarters for many of the top designers are located on this street, making it probably the most fashionable street in the world.

Milano is also well recognized for its nightlife. In the city of glitz and glamour there is no shortage of nighttime recreation. It is very common to see famous people or designers roaming the streets of Milano. If you are looking to dance the night away with celebs and models you will find a bevy of nightclubs. Two nightclubs that are hot among fashion victims and models are Hollywood, on Corso Como 15, and Shocking, on Via Bastoni di Porta Nuova 12. There are countless other clubs as well as bars and jazz clubs.

Besides dancing, music and opera are also a big part of the recreational activities in this diverse city. A stop at La Scala is a must for music and theatre lovers alike. Lastly soccer is a cult sport in Italy as is apparent by two pro soccer teams, AC Milano and Inter Milano. Both are huge in the Italian public eye for their rich history and world-class soccer. Catching a game can be one of the most recreational activities you’ll ever experience.

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