This weekend Michelle and I took a trip to Milano, Milan for you people back in the states. There we met with My cousin Enzo and his wife Daniella and two children, Leonardo and Victorio. Enzo and his family welcomed us into their home and provided us with a traditional Italian dinner, a dinner that brought back memories of my grandmother. They also gave us a personal tour of Milano along with some narration of it’s history.
Pre 20th Century History
Milan was founded by a group of meandering Celts. These Celts also had a notion to take over Rome, but the Romans beat them to the punch in 222BC and took over the town. They gave the descriptive if rather unimaginative name Mediolanum (middle of the plain). The city grew from a key pitstop on the trade routes between Rome and Northwestern Europe into the capital of the Western Empire and a site of religious significance after Emperor Constantine announced an edict here in 313 AD granting Christians freedom to worship.
From these lofty beginnings, the city descended into centuries of chaos caused by waves of barbarian invasions. But scrappy Milan mastered the art of the comeback, forming a commune (town council) in the 11th century that led the city into a period of rapid growth.
The Holy Roman emperor, Frederick I, decided to exploit the local conflicts, and attacked Milan in 1162. Now united by a common enemy, the surrounding towns banded together and kicked Frederick out to the curb in 1176.
Under the latter dynasties, Milan enjoyed considerable wealth and power. The city came under Spanish rule in 1535 and was given to Austria in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht. Napoleon made Milan the capital of his Republic in 1797 and of his Italian Republic five years later, and the city hosted his coronation as King of Italy in 1805.
Austria regained control of the city from 1814-1859, but troops commandeered by Victor Emmanuel II and Napoleon III soon wiped up the Austrian forces at the Battle of Magenta. Milan was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
During WWII central Milan was heavily bombed, leaving the opera house blown to smithereens and entire neighborhoods near the centre mostly in ruins. Italy surrendered to Allied forces on September 8, but two weeks later Mussolini declared a new Fascist republic, forcing a drawn-out bloody fight against the Allies and fellow Italians. The Northern Italian resistance movement came to a head in 1945, when an insurrection in Milan toppled the occupying Nazi forces in three days, and Mussolini was shot dead trying to flee the country.
The postwar industrial boom led by car manufacturing and access to northern Europe via new Alpine tunnels produced yet another of Milan's signature growth spurts. Milan was also making a concerted effort to clean up its act in the wake of organized crime and scandals. The city was shocked into action by the 1995 mafia-hit murder of Gucci heir Maurizio Gucci (ordered by his estranged wife) followed by a rash of mafia hits in 1999. The corruption that now appears have affected even Milan's beloved football teams.