Travel and Culture in Lombardy
Mediolanum, Milano’s old name, was founded by the Celts and it seems that the town’s name derives from a peculiar kind of animal, a sow, which was half-covered by wool (medio lanae), and seemed to live in the same place where the centre was built. Milan has always been a very lively city, even if it underwent numerous attacks, as the one in 222 B.C., when it was occupied by the Romans, who transformed it in a flourishing urban centre and then in the seat of the Roman Empire.
In 450 A.D. it was sacked by the Huns led by Attila and then it was further on destroyed by the Gothes in 539 A.D.
The prosperity of the centre started again in the eighth century, but it was in the Middle Ages that, under the government of some archbishops, it gained a certain degree of independence.
In the eleventh century these archbishops slowly lost their power and the noble feudatories transformed Milan into a rich and flourishing commune.
Unfortunately, in 1162, Emperor Frederick I razed the town to the ground and only in 1176, with the Legnano battle and the help from the Lombard League, the town resumed its development. This victory opened the way to a period of prosperity with the reign of the noble Visconti family, in particular in the person of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, first Duke of the town, who kept the power from 1351 to 1402.
In 1450 the Sforza family took the power through the military figure of Francesco Sforza, who governed till 1500, when the town was occupied by the French. The Sforzas continued to represent a puppet government, also towards the other invaders who arrived after the French: the Swiss and the Austrian.
The Sforzas were brought downl in 1535 and Milan was occupied by the Spanish who governed the town until 1713 and then surrendered it to Austria.
In 1796, with Napoleon’s arrival, the Austrian were driven out from the town and Milan became the capital of the Cisalpine Republic. Later Milan was given back to Austria again and only in 1848, with the famous “cinque giornate” (five days), the Milanese succeded in expelling the Austrian from their town and then drove them out definitively with the French help in 1859.
In 1861 Milan became part of the Italian Kingdom and the town started to develop and become rich again.
Finally, during the Second World War, the town was heavily bombed until the arrival of the allied, on 25th April 1945, when the conflict ended.
After the war the re-establishment started: industries and commerce developed and made Milan become the present-day metropolis.