Milan history and culture: I counted the other day the number of times I visited Milan for work and pleasure in the last decade, and I would hazard a guess at around 20 times. The most important occasions were for Milan Fashion Week and the furniture exhibition, Salone del Mobile — two of the most important industries that Milan is famous for: fashion and design. But have you ever sat back and asked yourself why and how the city won its reputation as the city of commerce in the first place?
I decided that on my next visit to Milan, I would aim to get to grips with the city’s historic roots and decided to go on a private walking tour with Walks of Italy to help unearth the Milan history and culture.
Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio – the true beginnings of Milan
The Milan history and culture itinerary started with where Milan was founded. Serena, my guide explained to me that most people are mistaken into thinking of the Duomo as the symbolic birth of the city. It was, in fact, a more sacred church, founded by Sant’Ambrogio in AD 386, which indeed forged the city’s existence and what is known now as the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio. The word Basilica, originally created by the Romans in the paleo-Christian period (4th century AD) as a public place to discuss politics and philosophy, is now used as a classification given to churches of significant historic importance.
During the era of Roman Empire between 286-402 AD, Milan was already given an important role to play as being named capital of the Western Roman Empire. Its fertile land made it ideal for the Romans to canalise, and there was a point in time where the city could have been mistaken for a little Venice. Due to its huge abundance of water, Milan became the place where raw materials such as silk coming from Venice, could be produced into fabrics. At the time when water was a primary source of energy, Milan developed an excellence in fabric production, and then later on with arts and crafts in the Renaissance period. Water overall became the primary driver of the city’s wealth.
It is, therefore, one of the principal reasons why up until present day, it holds its reputation as being one of the greatest fashion and design hubs in the world. What remains today of its Roman canal system is the area of Navigli, which was conceived later on by the genius Leonardo di Vinci.
Where to stay
Where else but to stay at the Armani Milano — a real example of the city’s dedication to fashion and design, situated in the heart of the Milan’s fashion district, Quadrilatero Della Moda.