World Facts Index > Italy > Milan

Milan is divided into 20 zones, identified numerically by the local council. Each zone has characteristics which make them quite easy to distinguish from each other, this is often due to the history of those who settled in each of the districts.

Historical centre - This is encircled by the ring road and includes the piazza del Duomo and the surrounding area, the fashion district ' the area that has the highest concentration of shops Piazza della Scala, Corso Venezia, Via Torino, Via Dante and Castello Sforzesco, Corso di Porta Vittoria and the neighbouring areas, Corso di Porta Romana and Corso Magenta. As is the case with many cities, a large part of Milan is taken up with offices and services, but there are also residential areas. Living in Milan is quite costly, and has other inconveniences: there are few shops selling basic items, supermarkets are few and far between, so finding a dry cleaner's or being able to buy groceries can present a bit of a problem. Porta Romana has managed to maintain a slightly more residential feel, rent is a little more affordable and there are also grocer`s shops. The traffic is a slight disadvantage, as it is quite chaotic around that area and it is also difficult to find parking. Despite these problems the historical soul of the centre of Milan makes it a beautiful place, and most of the evening entertainments take place in this condensed area. Behind the centre, heading north is Corso Venezia and its intersecting roads which are filled with noblemen palazzi which are still used as residences in some cases, in others, they have been converted into luxury offices. The gardens of Porta Venezia make up a small, enclosed park which is one of the most beautiful in Milan. Further north, Corso Buenos Aires is one of the largest commercial main roads with a European feel. It is well served by the metro, there are many immigrants here, and because of this, there are many different ethnic restaurants; travellers are well advised to stay away from the gardens at night, or at least be wary of people you may meet around there. The houses here are very beautiful, well repaired and in the evening, this Corso is one of the streets in Milan with the most traffic.

Isola - North of the city, this area is behind Stazione Centrale, in the direction of Monza, behind Via Melchiorre Gioia. Part of the area has large streets which lead out of the city, and it has an olde worlde charm which is visible around Piazza Greco, and its historic factories. 'La Maggiolina' is a beautiful place to live, it was once known as the area of journalists, but the whole area, including Via Villa Mirabello, Via Arbe, Piazza Farina, Via Cagliero a stretch of low houses, surroundded by green. Here, the traffic is a little more reasonable, and it is served by metro line 3. Bovisa-Dergano is north of Milan, it has a historical centre around Piazza Dergano, where it has preserved its identity of a little village, inside a large city. A part of the old industrial area has been recovered by the Polytechnic of Milan, and has used the classroom for the Architecture Faculty. Situated close to the train station, it seems as if one were in the country. Some of the disused areas seem to resemble open wounds in the heart of the city, even though they are served by Ferrovie Nord and the Passante Ferroviario trains. Other areas north of Milan include Niguarda, Ca' Granda and Bicocca there are large hospital complexes here eg. Ospedale Maggiore or CTO and residential areas. In Bicocca, a new science and technology zone has been created on some ot the disused industrial sites. Served only by bus and tram.

Vittoria - South-east of Milan, this is a popular area, characterised by a working/middle-class feel, there are alternating commercial and residential areas. Around Viale Lazio, there are mostly residential areas with tree-lined avenues, in Corso Lodi there is the hum of commercial activity; Viale Umbria is residential, but Corso XXII Marzo is filled with shops. Some fashion houses have their headquarters here, between Viale Umbri and Corso Lodi. Further east between Forlanini and Taliedo, we are in the direction of Linate airport towards the Idroscalo a large dock filled with water where one can bathe, take the sun, and take part in a spot of yachting, close to the great green lung created by Parco Forlanini. To the east, towards Viale Ungheria, a residential zone. There is still some industrial activity further east on Viale Mugello and towards Viale Molise (the large complex of Macello Comunale) and further out, beyond the station of Porta Vittoria, the wholesale market, Mercato Ortofrutticolo. There are no metro stations nearby.

Ticinese - South of the centre, many of the original residents (or their descendants) still live here.There are many case di ringhiera palazzi with wrought iron balconies facing inwards 'homes to workers who lived here at the beginning of the twentieth century. The houses have undergone renovation and are used as homes, and studios for architects, designers, art, graphic and fashion designers, and as fashion workshops where clothes are created. There are many bars but also shops for basic items and for clothes etc, it is across the tracks at the Porta Genova station. Corso Genova and Corso di Porta Ticinese are streets dedicated to shopping, beyond the station Via Savona, Via Tortona and Bergognone are undergoing radical restructure, which has raised the profile of the area a great deal. Many disused industrial buildings have been acquired by designers and stylists as their new headquarters, bringing new life to the area, by day and also by night. On the side of I Navigli, the area teems with nightclubs, creating a noisy, traffic congested area, especially in the evening, even though some of the streets surrounding i Navigli are closed to cars at night.

Magenta - Half of Corso Magenta is in the centre, the other half is outside the centre. Corso Magenta is synonymous with wealth and elegance: there is hardly any shopping to be had, the palazzi are large and there are beautiful hidden gardens; this also can be said of the neighbouring streets, right up to Parco Sempione (where the splendid Via XX Settembre comes to an end) and up to Corso Vercelli. Here the scenery changes and there are a myriad of shops, some of which are very prestigious. It is a street that offers shopping for everyone. Well served by public transport, this is a street with lots of traffic and few parking spaces. This is a good place to live if you don't really like noisy night life, there is are one or two bars among the restaurants and a multiplex cinema (cinema Multisala Gloria in Corso Vercelli). Corso Sempione is a spacious main road which ends at the Arco della Pace. It is a quiet and elegant residential area without many shops nearby.

Centrale - North-east of Milan. Piazzale Loreto is almost in the centre at the end of Corso Buenos Aires. Viale Monza parts from here, this is a large road that ends at Sesto San Giovanni, and Via Padova, which has retained a more tranquil, village-like aspect. Behind Viale Monza, between the metro stops of Precotto and Gorla there is a stretch of Naviglio della Martesana, where a beautiful public walk has been created. At the end of the zone, towards Lambrate, is Parco Lambro, a large green lung within Milan. For the most part it is an area that is well kept without looking like a uniform 'dormitory' which areas created on the outskirts can tend to have. There are few industrial complexes and may inhabitants, various production installations. che di 'dormitorio' che hanno in genere le periferie urbane. Pochi scheletri industriali e molti abitanti, diversi insediamenti produttivi in piena attività.

Città Studi - Situated in the east of Milan, as the name suggests, this is where a number of university faculties are, from the Polytechnic to numerous chemistry, biology and pharmacy departments. A great deal of this area was built in the Twenties, Thirties and Fourties, with large tree lined streets and beautiful residential areas. The same beautiful scenery continues to Viale Argonne, which leads to Lambrate, where the residential zone is criss crossed by streets filled with greenery (all except Via Porpora which has shops and is narrower). The nearest metro is linea 2, and its stops for Piola and Lambrate.

Romana - In the direction of A1 the motorway leading to Southern Italy. Corvetto is a densely populated area, with lots of production plants towards Rogoredo where the road leads onto the tangenziale. Via Ripamonti leads to the south of Milan where there a few important monuments, such as l'Abbazia di Chiaravalle. Some of the areas bear the hallmarks of industrial productivity, with a mix of old and ultramodern residential areas. The areas of Corvetto and Rogoredo are served by metro line 3, whereas the area surrounding Ripamonti is served only by bus.

Navigli - Ticinese - South-west of Milan, this area combines every day life and antiquity on Via Chiesa Rossa, (which is on the Naviglio), this is due to the immigration which took place in the Fifties and Sixties in the area of Gratosoglio. On the outskirts of Milan in Via Chiesa Rossa, there lies some beautiful countryside, making this a pleasant place to live; people have to adapt to the large buildings and lack of shops in Gratosoglio. There is no metro, but the tram will get you there. Further south, are areas that many of the Milanese hold dear a mixture of suburban life with modern constructions. The Naviglio reaches the autostrada for Genova. The complex of Assago can be seen on the motorway, where the FilaForum Milanofiori is situated; this is home to concerts, exhibitions and all kinds of events. The residential areas behind Milan have been recently built. Famagosta and Romolo are the nearest metro stops (line 2). There is also a terminus where buses service the whole area.

Fiera - West, south-west, Via Lorenteggio is a very long road, densely inhabited, the street is elegant at the beginning, with less 'genteel' houses towards the end. The surrounding areas have many tree-lined streets, with lots of greenery and tall buildings with a beautiful view. Most of the buildings were not built before 1930, so they tend to be well kept and relatively new. There are quite a few shops selling basic items and other goods. It is reachable by metro line 1. The ancient suburb of Baggio is a wonderful surprise: small, elegant with the look of a village on the threshold of a large city. Via Forze Armate alternates between residential areas, and zones which are half-deserted, occupied by a large military site, for example. Next door is San Carlo hospital and several residential zones, which have been recently built, typical Milanese suburbs. Via Forza is served by the metro up to a certain point.

San Siro - West of Milan, this actually encompasses three different areas. Gallaratese, is a typical 'dormitory quarter' of the sixties, it also includes two buildings created by two famous architects Aldo Rossi and Carlo Aymonino. The central area of San Siro is made up essentially of houses from the Thirties, the area closest to the peripheries comprises rather elegant residential palazzinas. Elegant houses immersed in green are on the outskirts hemming in the palazzinas like a belt. This is the home of the ippodromo, the stadio S. Siro (for football) and the Monte stella a stadium for sports and leisure time. QT8 is an area in the direction of the Fiera Campionaria (which is located in the Magenta-Sempione area and San Siro), it was an architectural experiment, built in honour of the eighth Triennial from which it takes its name. This is regarded as a prize civil construction and is mainly residential. Metro line 1 runs through the area, except for the peripheral zone of San Siro.

North-West - In a north-westerly direction, Viale Certosa is a main road which is always busy and which leads to the motorway. There are many shops and residential buildings. Il Cimitero Maggiore di Milano (the city cemetery) is found at the bottom of Viale Certosa. Quarto Oggiaro is perhaps one of the areas of Milan with the worst reputation. In reality it is an area that has been left to itself, with medium size houses, cut through with streets that lead away from the city. This absence of real urbanisation has led to a hybrid, with an identity which has unfortunately led to negative connotations, which it does not really deserve. Close by, Vialba, has the same distinguishing features but is less badly regarded. There is no metro available. Affori, Bruzzano and Comasina are on the northern outskirts of Milan, in the direction of Como and are residential areas, there are some collections of villas, a small amount of production plants. It is well served by bus, but is not yet linked by metro.

North-East - The lively Via Ortica is located in this eastern strip of Milan; it has preserved the aspect and atmosphere of an old hamlet alongside the newer constructions in Via Carnia and the surrounding areas. The metro circles the area, with stops at Lambrate, Udine and Cimiano (line 2). Further east, Via Ortica is reachable by bus. It is not a zone with any particular characteristics but it is a convenient place to live; there are no major industrial complexes, the area is just behind the East tangenziale.

South-East - The outskirts of Peschiera Borromeo, S.Donato Milanese and Melegnano that lead towards Lodi. These are all residential areas, typical of other suburban areas in other Italian cities.

South-West - This is the area between Cornaredo, Cusago, Corsico and Rozzano. This is also a typical residential area on the outskirts, leading into the countryside and onto Lomellina.

History of Milan

Today Milan gives the impression of being a very chaotic city with a lot of traffic, and full of people who are always in a hurry. However, you just have to leave the main streets to see that Milan has a fascinating past, and its present physionomy is the result of its history.

The first known inhabitants of Milan date back to the Bronze Age, but the first sign of it being an actual settlement of a reasonable size comes from the 4th century B.C.. This settlement is generally attributed to the Celts, or more precisely the Gauls. It seems that the name Milan -possibly meaning place in the middle - also dates back to the Celts, although it was later converted to Mediolanum. Milan is a very central place, lying at the centre of the Padana Plain, the largest plain in Northern Italy.

At the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. Milan was conquered by the Romans, and then became an autonomous province (a Municipium) under the control of Rome. It's importance grew considerably during the Imperial Age. Thanks to its geographical position it became a point on the road going to the North of the Italian Peninsula, and also an important military station in order to fend off the Barbarians from Northern Europe. It was an Imperial residence in the 3rd century A.D., and halfway through the 4th century it became the most important city in Europe, after Rome. Christianity spread rapidly through Mediolanum, and this made it one of the most important centres of the Christian religion. To this day, in the city's historical centre, you can still see some Roman remains, especially in Piazza Cordusio.

Milan's importance lessened with the decline of the Roman Empire, as did its centrality which ended with the invasion of the Longobardi in the 4th century. Its rebirth began after the start of the Carolingian domination in the 8th century A.D.. The Ambrosian rite was born at this time, and still exists today in the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. This demonstrates Milan's importance as a religious centre.

In the meantime, merchant life was developing, and led towards the period of the signoria, who gradually acqusited autonomy from the Empire, first with Ottone Visconti, and then with Matteo and Azzone. During this period Milan continued it's geographical expansion with a new city wall (this wall corrisponds to the Navigli circle in modern Milan). This new wall around the city included the six new entrance gates - today the memory, and in some cases, the remains, are still there, and annex some of the immediately surrounding hamlets into the city's outskirts. At some point in the 14th century, Milan acquired a canal system. This was both for defensive use - ditches around the walls - and for agricultural use. It was the birth of the Navigli (Canal) system, which still defines the city's physionomy today. In the 15th century power passed from the Visconti signoria to the Sforza signoria, with Francesco Sforza who became Duke of Milan.

A period of prosperity began at this time, along with the development of the crafts, merchant and agricultural sectors. Architectural features of this time include the Ospedale Maggiore (today this is the seat of the State University), the Lazzaretto (which holds the Rotonda della Besana where shows are held, and which is an open air cinema in the Summer), the Castello Sforzesco, which today is classed as a monument and holds many art collections, and various constructions by Bramante and Filarete.

In the 16th century, Milan found itself at the centre of a conflict between France and the House of Hapsburg. During this dark period of it's history, the Sforza family came and went, the continual battles weakened the city, which was finally reduced to a province under Spanish rule. Notwithstanding all of this, the Milaneses' pervaciousness enabled the city to obtain its own autonomous government and a restricted circle of noble families who controlled the economic and demographic expansion. One important figure of this time left his mark, that was Carlo Borromeo. He was the archbishop who consolidated the Ambrosian rite, and became a saint in the 17th century. The creation of the Ambrosian Library (which today also holds the Art Gallery Pinacoteca Ambrosiana) is due to his successor, Federico Borromeo. At the beginning of the 17th century the Black Death greatly reduced the city's population and caused another decline of the city, especially from the economic point of view. The main architectural sign of the 17th century is the construction of the new walls - The Spanish Walls - which today surround Milan's historical centre.

At the beginning of the 18th century power passed from the Spanish to the House of Hapsburg. Milan began a new phase of expansion, characterised by fiscal and ecclesiastical reform., which culminated in exceptionally rich cultural activity around 1770. Il Caffè (an Enlightenment newspaper), and Giusppe Piermarini's architecture, which included the restoration of several important buildings, as well building the Villa Reale at Monza, are examples of the cultural expansion of this period. The Library and the Brera Accademy were also born at this time. Milan fell under French control with Napoleon Bonaparte, and underwent a large demographic increase. It became the capital of the Cisalpine Republic and reaffirmed its cultural and economic importance. Napoleon's architectural and urbanistic program brought about the building of the "cerchia dei bastoni", also known as the ring road, a system of roads which today surrounds Milan's historical centre. New roads were built, based on Paris' road system, and these roads are still used today.

In the 19th century Milan fell under Austrian power again. This was not popular with the educated middle classes or, later, with the people in general. In 1848, during the Five Days of Milan, there was a popular insurrection which was curbed with violence. However a few years later, the changed political scene in the Italian Peninsula brought about the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy (1861).

Since the Unity of Italy, right up to the present day, Milan's development has been continuous, this has led to it being described as the moral capital of Italy. Milan has undergone a huge increase in size, that has sometimes seemed to be almost out of control. It has given the city new outskirts, which are sometimes crime ridden and badly designed.

The centre of Milan, as we know it today, dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when many areas outside Milan's centre were designed and rebuilt. The first workers' houses date back to this time, then in the Fascist period, "minimalist" houses were born, these fill the immediate outskirts, on great, tree-lined avenues.

After the war, following the massive immigration into Milan from the South of Italy, the so-called "dormitary districts" were built. These were huge appartment blocks with hardly any shops or services nearby. They were built with little funding and soon fell into direpair.

The big economic revival has made Milan into a rich and interesting city from many points of view. The "moral capital" of Italy, is without doubt very different from all the cities of art dotted around the country. It is the centre of economic activity in Italy. The Stock Exchange is based here. Milan's fame is also boosted by its role in the world of fashion, by the presence of many industries, the diffusion of the high-tech service sector, and by its cultural innovation.

Most of the Italian press is also based in Milan. One of the major TV networks - the largest private network in Italy - has its headquarters at the gates of Milan. It has become an internationally renowned city for its economic activity, and many students and business men from all over the world come here to study and work. Milan's size has remained reasonably contained, without its hinterland it has one and a half million inhabitants, these become four million if you count all the areas covered by the underground.

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