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Milan (Italian: Milano; Lombard: Milan)is one of the biggest cities in Italy, located in the plains of Lombardy. The city proper (Comune di Milano) has about 1,308,500 inhabitants (2004). The population of the urban area (Greater Milan La Grande Milano), comprising the core of Lombardy, is estimated, as of 2006, to be about 4,280,820 people. Finally, the official population of Milan Metro Area counts around 7,400,000 residents (2006). Milan has become one of the most highly developed urban centers in Europe.
By population, Milan is Italy's 2nd largest city and the 3rd Metro Area of the EU. Municipal borders wrap a relatively small area—about one-eighth that of Rome—because of the historical high density of population centers in agriculturally rich Lombardy. The heavily urbanized area centered in Milan includes some Swiss territories in southern Canton Ticino: this does not imply any kind of administrative unity, though. Milan is an alpha world full service city in GaWc inventory.
The city is one of the world's major commercial and financial centers, and one of the wealthiest cities in the European Union. Milan is one of the world capitals of fashion—along with New York City, Paris, London, Tokyo—and design. Indeed the English word milliner is derived from the name of the city. The Lombard metropolis is famous for fashion firms and shops (via Montenapoleone) and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in the Piazza Duomo, reputed to be the world's oldest shopping mall. Another famed Milanese product is the traditional Christmas sweet cake, called Panettone. Milan is also famous for the Alfa Romeo motorcar and for its silk production; but on the whole relies on its directional functions for the whole of Lombardy, its once proud and strong industrial base having been externalized throughout the region in the 60s-70s of the last century. The city hosted among other events the World Exposition in 1906, the FIFA World Cup in 1934 and 1990, the UEFA European Football Championship in 1980, and has submitted a bid to BIE to host the Universal Expo 2015.
It is presumed Milan was originally founded by the Celts of Northern Italy around 600 BC and was conquered around 222 BC by the Romans, who gave it the name of Mediolanum. In the 4th century, at the time of the bishop Saint Ambrose and Emperor Theodosius I, the city was briefly the capital of the Western Roman Empire. At that time Milan was the second largest city in Europe, with more than 300,000 inhabitants. St Ambrose is now the patron saint of the city. With the Visigothic menace mounting, Milan lost its capital role to Ravenna in 402. Attila plundered the city in 452 during his invasion of Italy, then the Ostrogoths of Uraia ravaged it in 541, during the disastrous Greco-Gothic war. The ghost of a city was then taken by the Lombards in 569; the main Byzantine officials, both civilian and religious, fled to Genoa for safety. The Lombards made Milan capital of one of their main duchies, and the city slowly but surely recovered a role, if overshadowed by neighbouring Pavia and Monza.
As a critical industrial center of Italy, Milan was the target of many heavy aerial bombings during World War II. The city was bombed even after Pietro Badoglio surrendered to the allied forces in 1943 - Milan was part of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic puppet state, and an important command centre of the German Army stationed in Italy. When war in Italy was finally over, April 25, 1945, Milan had been heavily damaged and entire neighborhoods such as Precotto and Turro were destroyed. After the war, the city was reconstructed and again became an important financial and industrial centre of Italy. More than 30% of the buildings were completely destroyed and another 30% were so heavily damaged that they were demolished in the first years after the war. Most of those buildings are located in the city centre.
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