Milan, Italy - During the early 1900s, Milan led the industrialization process of the young nation, being at the very center of the economic, social and political debate. Milan is the main industrial, commercial and financial centre of Italy and a leading global city. Its business district hosts the Borsa Italiana (Italy's main stock exchange) and the headquarters of the largest national banks and companies. The city is a major world fashion and design capital. Thanks to its important museums, theatres and landmarks (including the Milan Cathedral, the fifth largest cathedral in the world, and Santa Maria delle Grazie, decorated with
Leonardo da Vinci paintings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) Milan attracts over 6 million annual visitors. The city is well known for several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, the largest of its kind in the world, and will host the 2015 Universal Exposition. Milan is home to two of the world's major football teams,
A.C. Milan and
F.C. Internazionale Milano.
In 1919, Fascist leader
Benito Mussolini organized his Blackshirts in Milan that rallied for the first time in Piazza San Sepolcro, a small square near Milan Cathedral. Subsequently, Mussolini led his March on Rome starting from the city. During the Second World War Milan suffered extensive damage from Allied bombings. When Italy quit the war in 1943, German forces occupied most of Northern Italy until 1945. As a result, antifascist resistance groups formed and started guerilla warfare against Nazi and Italian Social Republic's troops. As the war came to an end, the American 1st Armored Division advanced on Milan as part of the Po Valley Campaign. But before they arrived, members of the resistance seized control of the city and executed Mussolini along with several members of his collaborationist government. On 29 April 1945, the corpses of Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci and other Fascist leaders were infamously hanged in Piazzale Loreto, where a year before fifteen partisans had been executed.
Milan is regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world, along with New York City, Paris, and London, synonymous with the Italian prêt-à-porter industry, as many of the most famous Italian fashion brands, such as
Dolce & Gabbana , are headquartered in the city. Numerous international fashion labels also operate shops in Milan. Milan's main upscale fashion district, quadrilatero della moda, is home to the city's most prestigious shopping streets (Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant Andrea, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia), in addition to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the world's oldest shopping mall.
Milan's figurative art flourished in the Middle-Ages, and with the Visconti family being major patrons of the arts, the city became an important centre of Gothic art and architecture (Milan Cathedral being the city's most formidable work of Gothic architecture). Leonardo worked in Milan from 1482 until 1499. He was commissioned to paint the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Milan is a major nation-wide and international centre of the performing arts, most notably opera. Milan hosts
La Scala opera house, considered one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, and throughout history has hosted the premieres of numerous operas. The city also has a renowned symphony orchestra and musical conservatory, and has been, throughout history, a major centre for musical composition: numerous famous composers and musicians.