Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region, and the most populous metropolitan area and the second most populous comune in Italy. Milan is the main industrial and financial centre of Italy and one of global significance. In terms of GDP, it has the 2nd-largest economy among EU cities after Paris, and the largest among European non-capital cities. Milan is considered part of the Blue Banana and lies at the heart of one of the Four Motors for Europe.
Milan is a leading global city, with strengths in the arts, commerce, design, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, services, research, tourism. Its business district hosts Italy's Stock Exchange and the headquarters of the largest national and international banks and companies. The city is a major world fashion and design capital, well known for several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair.
Milan's museums, theatres and landmarks (including the Milan Cathedral, Sforza Castle and Leonardo da Vinci paintings such as The Last Supper, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) attract over 9 million visitors annually. Milan is the second Italian city with the highest number of accredited stars from the Michelin Guide. The city hosted the Universal Exposition in 1906 and 2015. Milan is home to two of Europe's major football teams, AC Milan and FC Internazionale.
La Scala Theater
Built in 1776–78 by the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (whose country then ruled Milan), it replaced an earlier theatre that had burned. In 1872 it became the property of the city of Milan. The house was closed during World War I. In 1920 the conductor Arturo Toscanini led a council that raised money to reopen it, organizing it as an autonomous corporation. Bombed during World War II, the theatre reopened in 1946, partly through funds raised by benefit concerts given by Toscanini. In late 2001 La Scala closed for extensive renovations. Mario Botta served as the architect of the project, estimated to have cost some $67 million, and the theatre reopened in December 2004 with a performance of Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta, which had been performed at La Scala’s opening on August 3, 1778.
La Scala’s repertory is more varied than that of the other four or five leading opera houses. It tends to include a large number of unfamiliar works balanced by a limited number of popular favourites. Conductors are given control of casting and rehearsals. The composer Giuseppe Verdi was closely associated with the house during the 19th century. Toscanini’s tenure as artistic director marked one of the finest periods in the theatre’s existence.
Associated with the theatre are a ballet company, a ballet school, and a singing school. The expenses of La Scala are met by a combination of ticket sales, a municipal tax, and an Italian governmental subsidy.
The Arch of Peace
This photochrome print of the Arch of Peace (Arco della Pace) in Milan is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Italy” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). This 23-meter marble structure stands in the Piazza Sempione, at one end of the Simplon Road, the strategic route through the Alps taken by Napoleon I when he invaded northern Italy in 1800. Napoleon later commissioned the arch to commemorate his victories. Construction began in 1806 under the direction of the architect Luigi Cagnola (1762–1833), but the work was not completed during Napoleon’s rule. In 1826, Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria ordered that the arch be completed and dedicated to the peace that was restored in 1815 when Napoleon was defeated and driven from power. Construction was completed in 1838 under the direction of the architect Francesco Peverelli (1789–1854), who took over the work after the death of Cagnola. The neoclassical structure consists of three arcades and four marble Corinthian columns, with numerous sculptures by Pompeo Marchesi (1790–1858). At the top, the arch is capped by several bronze pieces, which include two figures on horseback at both corners, and the Sestiga della Pace, a sculpture of a carriage drawn by six horses by Abbondio Sangiorgio (1798–1879).
Santa Maria delle Grazia Church
It may only receive a cursory look by most visitors, but Santa Maria delle Grazie is a handsome church with a fine dome by Bramante. There is also a lovely cloister. The last meal shared by Jesus and his disciples was a common theme used to decorate convent refectories, especially in Florence, but Leonardo presented the subject in a completely innovative form. He made drastic modifications to the layout of the scene and, most notably, presented this episode from the Gospels with astounding realism.
Despite Leonardo's carefully preserved preparatory sketches in which the apostles are clearly labeled by name, there still remains some small debate about a few identities in the final arrangement. Most recently, novelist Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code that the figure on Jesus' right is not John the Apostle, but Mary Magdalene. Brown also claims that Peter is making a threatening gesture towards "Mary," representing a fierce battle between the two figures in the early church. Most art historians, however, point out that St. John is commonly represented with feminine features and there is no reason to think the figure is Mary.
Whatever the case, there can be no mistaking Judas, small and dark, his hand calmly reaching forward to the bread, isolated from the terrible confusion that has taken the hearts of the others. One critic, Frederick Hartt, has said the composition works because it combines "dramatic confusion" with "mathematical order."
An exceptionally large and elaborate Gothic cathedral on the main square of Milan, the Duomo di Milano is one of the most famous buildings in Europe. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world.
The street plan of Milan, with streets either radiating from the Duomo or circling it, indicates that the Duomo occupied the most important site in the ancient Roman city of Mediolanum. Saint Ambrose built a new basilica on this site at the beginning of the 5th century, with an adjoining basilica added in 836. When fire damaged both buildings in 1075, they were rebuilt as the Duomo.
In 1386 the archbishop, Antonio da Saluzzo, began the new project in a rayonnant Late Gothic style that is more characteristic of France than Italy. Work proceeded for generations. The main spire was topped in 1762 with a polychrome statue of the Madonna, to whom the Duomo and its predecessor have always been dedicated.
Even now, some uncarved blocks remain to be turned into sculpture. Gothic construction on the rest of the Duomo was largely complete in the 1880s.
The Duomo was recently under major renovations and cleaning for several years, obscuring the west front with scaffolding. Works were finally completed in 2009, revealing the newly-cleaned facade in all its glory.