Milan Cathedral, or Duomo di Milano
Milan Cathedral – Duomo di Milano

Milan is Italy’s second city for population, with over 1,300,000 inhabitants in inner Milan, growing to about 4 million people in the Greater Milan (Grande Milano) with its suburbs, which is the largest urban area in Italy. It constitues an urban continuum of buildings, residences, squares, services and factories that goes well beyond the city limits, expanding mostly North and East for many kilometres.

Recent years have seen the introduction of the new concept of Milan’s “Area Metropolitana”, the fourth in the European Union for number of inhabitants after the Ruhr district in Germany, Paris and London. It comprises the provinces of Milan, Lodi, Monza e Brianza, Como, Lecco, Varese, Bergamo, Pavia and Novara, and is home to well over 7 million people on an area of about 12,000 km² which include Alpine zones and, common to many European cities, regional parks.


Milan is the “capoluogo” (capital) of the region of Lombardy, in northern Italy. Geographically, this region has the Alps in its north, a range of hills, called Prealpi Lombarde, just south of the Alps and the great plain of the river Po (Italy’s longest river) further south, the Pianura Padana, where Milan is. The city’s position is excellent because the plain makes communications and transport easy, but at the same time the magnificent Alps with their fashionable ski resorts are quick to reach, and the Autostrada Milano-Laghi motorway connects rapidly Milan to the nearby Alpine lakes: Lake Como is about half an hour’s drive away.

Although the capital of Italy is of course Rome and the Eternal City is in many respects the most important, Milan is called by the Italians (especially the Northerners and, obviously, the Milanese in particular) “la capitale morale” (the moral capital). What does that exactly mean?

First of all, it is an attack on the corruption alleged to surround the political capital; secondly, it is a statement about the superior economic strength of Milan, which with its industrial power is the real engine of Italy.

In fact Milan is at the centre of one of the major industrial areas in Europe and is one of the most important financial centres of the continent. It is one of Europe’s main university, publishing and television centres. It has the world’s largest trade fair and exhibition centre in its FieraMilano, which, rebuilt and expanded in 2005, is at the top of the international trade fair sector for not only size, but also building quality and functional features. Milan is an important industrial and commercial city at international level, a truly cosmopolitan city, a destination for study and work travels from all over the world. It is one of the globe’s greatest fashion capitals and creative capitals.

It is Italy’s main city for economic activity, industry, finance, commerce, cultural industry, publishing, media, communications, services, tertiary sector, fashion, design, high-tech service sector. The Italian Stock Exchange, the Borsa, is based in Milan in Piazza degli Affari. Dozens of multinationals have opened their offices in this city. Milan is also a vibrant, lively place for cultural innovation. Most of Italy’s press, both general and specialized, are based here; one of the main television networks, Italy’s larget private TV network, is in the outskirts of Milan.

The city of Milan has two great football teams, both of international level: AC Milan, one of the best, most successful clubs in Europe and indeed in the world, which has won the European Champions League a record number of times, and Inter Milan. Incidentally, Italians call the first just “Milan” (with the stress on the first syllable) and the second “Inter” (short for Internazionale).


Italian Mini Dictionary

Grande Milano = Greater Milan

Meneghino [pron. with the g as in ‘get’] = Another term for Milanese,

derived from a local character of Commedia dell’Arte

Via [pron. veeah] = Street or road

Corso = Major street in a town or city