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What do you think of when you hear the word Milan? Let me guess… fashion?! Milan is renowned for being a top leader in the glamorous and glitzy world of fashion. There’s four heavy hitters out there: Paris, London, New York, and Milan. If fashion isn’t the name of your game, maybe Milan draws images to your mind of professional football teams or huge gorgeous Catholic cathedrals. Milan has a lot to offer the world besides stilettos, am I right?
Let’s dig a little deeper in the handbag of history to learn more about the alluring city of Milan.
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Milan was founded by the Celts around 400 BC. Much later in 222 BC, the Romans did what they do best and conquered the settlement. They then dubbed the city Mediolanum, which translates to Mediterranean in Latin. If you squint your eyes a little you can almost pick out the word Milan in Mediolanum. It has all the right letters!
Belloveso was the chief of the Celtic tribe that first settled in the area later known as Milan. According to legends, the chief found a mythological animal, a kind of half-woolen boar, which became the ancient symbol of the city itself. In the Middle Ages, they took a page from their history books and made wool production a key industry for the region!
It was at the beginning of the 5th century that barbarians began to invade Milan. The Visigoths took over in 402 AD and then good ol’ Attila the Hun ransacked the city in 452 AD. Later, the Ostrogoths conquered Milan in the Gothic War, and in 569 a Germanic tribe invaded and conquered Milan. Then our friend Charlemagne and the Franks took over in 774. Milan couldn’t catch a break!
Milan celebrates its “City Day” each year on December 7. It’s in commemoration of the patron Saint of Milan, Saint Ambrose, which dates back to in 1447 when the Ambrosian Republic was enacted. You might have noticed that they played copy cat with taking their name from St. Ambrose.
There’s this fancy middle English world that you probably don’t know about: “milaner” or “millaner.” Have you heard about it? It means fine wares and luxury apparel. Well, in the 16th century the production of luxury goods in the area was so amazing, that the city took that aforementioned word as its name. Milan became Milan!
In the 19th Century, Milan became a huge production center in textiles. It sure did look towards Paris for inspiration, I mean who wouldn’t look towards Paris?! But Milan began to stake a claim for itself with simple designs and high-quality fabrics. In fact, the first major department store in all of Italy opened in 1865: KMart! Just kidding, it was Alle Città d’Italia.
In the 20th century, Milan had a growing number of oh-so-very-fabulous designers. These designers helped make a huge mark on the global fashion industry, putting Milan on the map big time. It was in the 1960s that Milan really emerged as one of the fashion capitals of the world.
The year was 2009, and what a grand year for Milan it would be! 2009 marks the year that Milan officially took the title of Fashion Capital of The World. A title earned thanks to Global Language Monitor and fancy social media algorithms… #thankstechnology
Milan’s Cathedral, also known as the Duomo di Milano, is the second largest cathedral in the world! It is bested by Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Still, the Milan Cathedral covers a whole city block! That’s over 100,000 square feet!
The construction of the Milan Cathedral took over six centuries! The official start date was 1386 but they are still working on construction today. Yep, not done yet!
Apparently, the Milan Cathedral has more statues than any other building in the world. There is a grand total of 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures. Sure sounds like the Milan Duomo is a little crowded…
Sometimes a red light bulb marks more than an exit. There is a red light bulb above the apse in the Milan Cathedral that indicates a spot where one of the nails from Jesus’ crucifixion was supposedly placed. Impressive, indeed!
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AC Milan stands for Associazione Calcio Milan and is a professional football club based in Milan. The team was formed in December 1899 and initially included both a cricket and football team. Apparently, the cricket team has fallen to the wayside over the years…
AC Milan immediately won the King’s Medal Trophy in January 1990, just one month after their official formation! They won three national leagues real fast too, in 1901, 1906, and 1907. AC Milan were instant winners!
The team hadn’t even been together for 10 years before they had to form a second team, F.C. Internazionale Milano. In 1908, there was issues and arguments over signing foreign players. Thus, one team became two!
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Internazionale Milano, also known as Inter Milan, is the other professional football team that calls Milan it’s home As previously mentioned, they split away from the AC Milan Football Club in 1908. They took the name Internazionale because the founding members insisted on accepting all foreign players to their team, forming a truly international team!
Inter Milan isn’t the only nickname for Internazionale Milano. They have another popular nickname: nerazzurri, which comes from smashing the words nero and azzurro together. The Italian words for black and blue!
Inter Milan wanted a logo to represent their values, the acceptance of all players to their team, regardless of nationality. Giorgio Muggiani was the painter who designed their logo, with black and azure colors set against a background of stars, because “we are brothers of the world.”
In 1910 Inter Milan took its first gold trophy. A championship is called in Italian, a Scudetto. Sadly, the captain and coach during this first Scudetto were killed in WWI, the beloved Virgilio Fossati. It took the team 10 more years to win another championship.
P.S. – These are the 25 INCREDIBLE tours in Milan!
The Derby della Madonnina, also commonly referred to as the Milan derby, has nothing to do with horses. Or Kentucky. This derby is a football match between the two rival Milanese clubs: Inter and AC.
The Derby della Madonnina took its name in honor of the Virgin Mary statue that is on top of the Milan Cathedral. Madonnina means “Little Madonna” in Italian. I’m sure a lot of prayers are said to Madonnina before the games begin!
The derby takes place two times a year. It’s the only major derby in association football that is played at the same stadium. There is no switcheroos going on here. That’s. Because both teams in Milan call San Siro their home stadium.
Want to see the best of Milan?!? Check out our guide to the best Museums in Milan!
The Ambrosian chants of Milan are among the very first codified music in all of Western culture. The chants led to the development of scales! Talk about important! That’s crazy!
The leading opera house and ballet theatre in Italy was built in 1778 in Milan and was named: La Scala! Milan wouldn’t be Milan without Italian opera! La Scala is also home to La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Ballet and La Scala Theatre Orchestra, and a Theatre Academy too!
The Milan Conservatory was established way back in 1807 and was built on the premises on an ancient monastery. It did have to be rebuilt and heavily renovated after the damage it endured from WW2. The Milan Conservatory still hosts many renowned concert series each year.
From Fashion to Football, Milan has it all. Not to mention the popular ambrosian chants that we just can’t stop hearing about. It really is a wonder why it’s not more commonly known that those chants are the basis of our modern musical scale system. Seems like a pretty big deal, not to be talking about it more. Well, you know it about it now smarty-pants reader. So go ahead and spread your knowledge!
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Lily Allen-Duenas is a wandering yoga instructor, massage therapist, and reiki healer. For the last two years she’s been journeying around the world, teaching yoga on island resorts in Cambodia, surf hostels in Sri Lanka, and wellness centers in the Phillipines. Lily loves building her life around her passions, health, wellness, and travel. You can follow her journey at wildyogatribe.com or get social with her @wildyogatribe