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Milan, Italian Milano, city, capital of Milano province (Provincia) and of the region (regione) of Lombardy (Lombardia), northern Italy. It is the leading financial center and the most prosperous manufacturing and commercial city in Italy. The destiny of Milan, like that of many of the world’s great cities, remains something of a historical paradox. There are powerful factors supporting the argument that Milan should have become the capital of a unified Italy, and this is the belief of many Milanese, in spite of the fact that the unity of Italy was actually born in Turin, rather than in Milan, in 1870. Milan, nevertheless, is the most industrious and vital city to have achieved prominence since the ancient land of Italy became aware of itself as a modern nation-state. Area city, 70 square miles (182 square km); province, 765 square miles (1,980 square km). Pop. (2001) city, 1,256,211; province, 3,707,210; (2007 est.) city, 1,303,437; province, 3,884,481.

The fact that Milan is at a distance from much of the rest of Italy, that it is peripheral in a geographic sense, does not explain its position of “second city,” a position it has always vainly fought. Indeed, some of the greatest European capitals are peripheral in this sense. Rather, Milan’s role was the consequence of the immense historical importance and the enormous accumulation of myths and symbols that conferred on Milan’s antagonist, Rome, an inevitable prestige. During the Risorgimento, the 19th-century movement for Italian unification, Rome became the heart of a future anticipated in the collective fantasies of the Italian people.