Studying in Milan implies discovering a historic city, the capital of Lombardy in the central Po valley, which is Italy's richest, most populated and most economically active region. Milan has always been forward-looking, and during its 2,000 year-long history, it has been a driving force for great social, economic, cultural and political happenings.
It is the country's economic engine room, home to Italy's stock market and business centres. This stylish city is also the world's design capital and rivals Paris as a leading fashion centre. Its vitality makes it one of the most attractive cities in Europe.
With its seven universities, it is one of the most important and populated centre of culture, with students and researchers coming from all over Europe. Milan is also a city of art, with a wealth of monuments, palazzi, churches and museums, not to mention, the Duomo and La Scala, the temple of the opera.
Though Italy has a predominantly Mediterranean climate, Milan's winters (December - February) qualify as brisk, with lows below freezing. The mountains shield the city from the worst of the Northern European winter, however. Summer (May-Sept) can be hot and muggy. In August, most of the city heads to the beaches to escape the 30°C-plus (86°F-plus) heat; you'd do well to follow suit.
Founded in the 7th century BC by the Celtic tribes, in 222 BC the town was occupied by the Roman legions who called it Mediolanum (middle of the plain). Mediolanum grow in importance for its key position which linked Rome with northwestern Europe and it was here, in 313 AD, that Constantine promulgated the edict granting Christian freedom of worship.
The city endured centuries of chaos caused by waves of barbarian invasion, but in the 11th century it formed a commune which guaranteed a period of rapid growth. Perhaps because of this success, the city did not get along well with its neighbours. In fact, the Holy Roman emperor, Frederick I (Barbarossa) decided to exploit the local conflicts, and attacked Milan in 1162. The surrounding towns, galvanized by a common and annoying enemy, banded together as the Lega Lombarda, kicking Frederick to the curb in 1176.
From the mid - 13th century, the city was governed by a succession of important families: the Torrianis, the Viscontis and the Sforzas. 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. Austrian power-broker Maria Theresa left her mark on the city; the facades of la Scala and the Palazzo Reale remain her favourite shade of yellow. Napoleon made Milan the capital of his Cisalpine Republic in 1797 and his Italian Republic five years later. It hosted his coronation as King of Italy in 1805.
Austria regained control of the city from 1814-1859. It wasn't long before troops under Victor Emmanuel II and Napoleon III wiped up the Austrian forces at the Battle of Magenta. Milan was incorporated into the kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Heavily bombed in World War II, the city was subsequently rebuilt and quickly grew to its modern industrial prominence.