10 Fascinating Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Milan

So much more than fashion week.

Milan, Italy’s northern star and the capital of Lombardy, has always been the economic and industrial center of the country. As a leading city in areas of: art, design, fashion, finance, commerce and more, it’s the third largest economy in Europe after London and Paris.

Facebook Teatro alla Scala.
Facebook/Teatro alla Scala.

With 8 million travelers visiting Milan every year, you might be one of them. Here are ten fascinating facts about this global metropolis that you might have not known about!

1. The Celts.

Turismo Milano Archeological Museum
Photo: Turismo Milano Archeological Museum

Around 600 BC, archeologist believe the Celts founded Milan. But it was the Romans who named it Mediolanum in Latin, which translates to Mediterranean.

2. Milan vs. Rome.

Rome may be the largest city in Italy with Milan coming in as runner-up, Milan is known as the economic capital of the country. Meanwhile, Rome has historically been known as the center of religion and politics.

3. Madonnina, the guardian.

duomomilano.it Madonnina

If you look closely at the top of the Duomo, you’ll see Madonnina’s statue installed in 1774. Traditionally, buildings in Milan cannot be taller than Madonnina who is regarded as the guardian of the city. That’s why when Gio Ponti’s Pirelli Building was completed in the 1950s, a smaller replica of Madonnina was placed on top of the building so that it would be the tallest in Milan. The same replica was made in 2010 at the top of the Palazzo Lombardia, then on top of Isozaki Tower in 2015.

4. Rejected, Giuseppe Verdi.

Facebook Conservatorio Musica Verdi Milano
Facebook/Conservatorio Musica Verdi Milano

It’s ironic that Milan Conservatory is also known as Conservatorio di musica “Giuseppe Verdi” di Milano. In 1833, Verdi was not accepted to the conservatory due to unqualified piano playing skills and lack of musical talent.

5. Milan, another Venice?

Canal in Milan.
Naviglio. Photo: Jetset Times

Once also a water city, Milan’s five channels connected various Italian lakes including: Maggiore, Como and Tocino river to the sea. During the 20th century, except for Naviglio, most waterways were put underground to provide space for roads that cars can drive on.

6. Carpet bombing.

Milan was subjected to carpet bombing during WWII since it was Italy’s main economic and industrial center. The continuous raids and large number of bombs resulted in Milan as the most bombed city in Northern Italy and one of the most bombed city in the country.

7. AC…not Slater!

Facebook AC Milan
Facebook/AC Milan

Football, or as Americans call soccer, is immensely popular in Italy. Milan is home to two of the fiercest teams in Italian football league: Inter and Milan. The latter is owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – a massive football fan. Both teams play at the largest stadium in Italy: San Siro.

8. Aperitivo

Aperitivo. Photo: Jetset Times

The beloved tradition of aperitivo originates in Milan, then spread throughout the rest of Italy. Most cafes and bars in Milan offer aperitivo from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. And it’s absolutely lovely. Complimentary snacks, who’s gonna say no to free food?!

9. La Scala.

Facebook Teatro alla Scala
Facebook/Teatro alla Scala

Teatro alla Scala is one of the biggest and most recognized opera houses in Europe, and seats over 2,000 theater-goers. Situated in Milan’s Piazza della Scala, the theater also faces Leonardo Da Vinci’s monument and Palazzo Marino (Milan’s city hall.)

10. The Last Supper.

Wikipedia. The Last Supper, Milan

Italian artist, Leonardo Da Vinci, spent 17 years in Milan to invent new machines and to work on several city projects. You can find his famous painting The Last Supper in Milan’s convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The late 15th century mural was commissioned as part of a renovations plan to the church and convent. The painting depicts Jesus’ last supper with his twelve apostles, one of whom he announced would betray him.

Wendy Hung


As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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