Have you ever been in Milan? Or maybe you’re planning your first visit soon? Here are some curious facts about Milan from its beginning to nowadays. You will find many historical information as well as some fun facts. Let’s go 😉
1. Let’s start from the very beginning. Did you know that the city was founded by Celts, in 600 BC? Yes, it was created by a Celtic tribe from Gaul, the Insubres and the original name of the city was Mediolanon, Celtic for “in the middle of the plain”.
2. Milan is the 2nd largest city in Italy and the 2nd most visited city after Rome. Considering all the interesting facts and all the things you can do here, it is not a surprise! It is also believed that it’s the 7th most visited city in Europe.
3. When you look for “Milan” on Google, it will bring you the picture of the Duomo Cathedral. It is certainly a breathtaking building. But did you know that The Milan Cathedral is the 3rd largest catholic church in Europe? The construction of the Duomo took more than 500 years, if to be more precised – 579 years. The last details of the cathedral were only completed in 1965. There are more than 3,400 statues on the Duomo, plus 135 gargoyles and 700 figures. Can you try to count them all? 🙂
By the way.. you can adopt one of those gargoyle by donating money for Cathedral reconstruction. With this your name will symbolically be associated to the chosen one!
4. Napoleon was crowned King of Italy in the Milan Cathedral in 1805. How that happened? In 1796, the French Army, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, invaded Italy. After conquering most of Italy, Napoleon created the Kingdom of Italy in 1805 and was crowned in the Milan Cathedral on May 26 1805. Thus he became the King of Italy.
5. The Arch of Peace is a mockery of Napoleon and France!
After conquering Northern Italy in 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the construction of a triumphal arch at the Sempione Gate, one of the entrances of the city. Before construction was finished, the Austrian forces took Milan on April 28th 1814 and Napoleon was overthrown. In 1838, the Arch of Peace was finished by the Austrian, who made it a mockery to Napoleon and France: the horse statues at the top were originally meant to be facing France, but the Austrians turned them 180 degrees to turn their back to France. Huh! Now you can easily use those horses as a compass to find where the France is.
6. In the middle of the Piazza del Duomo, the main square, where the Duomo is located, you will see the statue of The King Vittorio Emanuele II. Despite of hundreds of pigeons around, the statue is always clean. What is the secret? It is more simple than you think. In fact the secret is the small electricity current in the statue, which is keeping the birds away! But I guess this doesn’t always work.. otherwise what those pigeons are doing on the statue?
Oops, the king is hidden behind his horse 😀
7. Just next to the Cathedral there is another most visited place to check: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1877, is the oldest active shopping mall in all of Italy. It’s also one of the most photographed locations in the city with a perfect architecture.
8. Today’s Fashion Capital of the World was the capital of the Western Roman Empire at a time! In the beginning of this list I’ve mentioned that Milan was called Mediolanon before. But, when the Romans captured the city from the Celts in 222 BC, they renamed it Mediolanum. Later in 286 AD the capital of the Western Roman Empire was moved from Rome to Milan.
9. You think Venice is not the only Italian city with canals? Let me tell you that Milan also has a system of 5 canals connecting the different neighborhoods! They used to be one of the main transportation options here in the past. Today You can still go on a boat tour on the Navigli canals or spend a nice evening over there!
10. The Teatro alla Scala is one of the leading Opera house in the world and the largest opera house in Europe. Each performance can be enjoyed by over 2,000 spectators. If you want to attend one, take in mind to book your tickets few months in advance, as the tickets are being solved quickly. But the opera house also has a museum, so you can glance its stage even without a ticket for an opera performance.
11. Most of the inventions from Leonardo da Vinci are stored in the National Museum of Science and Technology, a major museum in Milan opened in 1953. The museum hosts the largest permanent exhibition dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci in the world where you can see the models of helicopter, moving bridge, the copy of “The Last Supper” and many more.
12. Milan is home to many skyscrapers and has the highest concentration of skyscrapers in Italy. In 2020, there are 25 skyscrapers in the city. The Torre Unicredit and Allianz Tower of Milan are the 2 highest buildings in Italy. However The Pirelli Tower is the first skyscraper built in Italy. With its 127m height it was the highest building in Italy, and the first building to be highest than the Milan Cathedral. However the Pirelli Tower is now the 10th tallest building in Milan.
13. What a trip without some fun? There is a happy hour for aperitifs working here. Order some drinks (cocktails or a glass of wine) from 7 to 9pm and you’ll be entertained with some tasty food in bars and cafes of Milan. If you want to go full Italian, try a Negroni!
14. Milan has a bull that brings you luck! There is a place in Milan that may help you to get luck in case you are in need. Go to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and look for a picture of a bull on the ground. Put your heel on the private parts of the bull and twirl three times. This odd behavior is said to bring you luck. Unfortunately I didn’t know about this before my visit, otherwise would give it a try 😀
15. A famous Italian proverb compares the cities of Milan and Rome, and roughly translates as, ‘Rome is a voluptuous woman whose gifts are very apparent, while Milan is the shy, demure girl whose treasures are plentiful, but discovered in time.’
There is much to discover in Milan. I’m inviting you to take a tour with me in Milan (and other Italian cities) and explore all the interesting places together.