Milan is the second-most populous city in Italy and the capital of Lombardy. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area is the 5th largest in the EU with an estimated population of about 5,248,000. The massive suburban sprawl that followed the post-war boom of the 1950s–60s and the growth of a vast commuter belt, suggest that socioeconomic linkages have expanded well beyond the boundaries of its administrative limits and its agglomeration, creating a metropolitan region of 7-9 million people, stretching over the provinces of Milan, Bergamo,Como, Lecco, Lodi, Monza and Brianza, Pavia, Varese and Novara. It has been suggested that the Milan metropolitan region is part of the so-called Blue Banana, the area of Europe with the highest population and industrial density.
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 more than two million annual visitors. It hosts numerous cultural institutions and universities, with 185,000 enrolled students in 2011, i.e. 11 percent of the national total. The city is also 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.
Milan was founded by the Insubres, a Celtic people. The city was later conquered by the Romans, becoming the capital of the Western Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, Milan flourished as a commercial and banking center. In the course of centuries, it has been alternatively dominated by France, Habsburg Spain, and Austria, until when in 1859 the city was eventually annexed by the new Kingdom of 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. Badly affected by the World War II devastations, and after a harsh Nazi occupation, the city became the main centre of the Italian Resistance. In post-war years, the city enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, attracting large flows of immigrants from rural Southern Italy. During the last decades, Milan has seen a dramatic rise in the number of international migrants, and today more than one sixth of its population is foreign born.
According to the Köppen climate classification, Milan has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa). Milan’s climate is similar to much of northern Italy’s inland plains, where moderately hot summers and cold humid winters prevail. The Alps and Apennines mountains form a natural barrier that protects the city from the major circulations coming from northern Europe and the sea.
During winter, average temperatures can fall below freezing levels (−2 °C or 28 °F) and significant accumulations of snow can occur: the historic average of Milan’s area is 21 centimetres (8 in) in the period between 1950 and 2007, with a record of 90 centimetres (35 in) in January, 1985. In the stereotypical image, the city is often shrouded in the heavy fog typical of cold seasons in the Po Basin, although the removal of rice paddies from the southern neighborhoods and the urban heat island effect have reduced this occurrence in recent decades, at least in the city centre. Occasionally, bursts of Foehn winds cause the temperatures to rise unexpectedly: on 22 January 2012 the daily high reached 16 °C (61 °F) while on 22 February 2012 it reached 21 °C (70 °F). The city receives on average seven days of snow per year. Air pollution levels rise significantly in wintertime when cold air clings to the soil, causing Milan to be one of Europe’s most polluted cities.
Summers can be quite sultry, when humidity levels are high and peak temperatures can reach 34 °C (93 °F). Usually this season enjoys clearer skies and more than 13 hours of daylight on average; when precipitations occur though, there is a higher likelihood of them being thunderstorms andhailstorms. Springs and autumns are well marked and generally pleasant, with temperatures ranging between 10 °C (50 °F) and 20 °C (68 °F) ; these seasons are characterised by higher precipitation averages, especially in April and May. Relative humidity typically ranges between 45% (comfortable) and 95% (very humid) throughout the year, rarely dropping below 27% (dry) and reaching as high as 100% Wind is generally absent: over the course of the year typical wind speeds vary from 0 mph to 9 mph (calm to gentle breeze), rarely exceeding 18 mph (fresh breeze), except during summer thunderstorms when winds can blow strong. In the spring, gale-force windstorms may happen, generated either by Tramontane blowing from the Alps or by Bora-like winds from the north.
Milan, depending on how you want to tour the city, is a rewarding visit all the year. Keep in mind most places, including tourist destinations and museums, are closed on Mondays.
In autumn, the weather is warm/cool, and in later months can be quite rainy and foggy. At this time of the year, the city’s inhabitants are very busy with work (just kidding), so, the only people you’re likely to see wandering around are tourists. All the major venues and shops are open, since it is the working part of the year.
In winter, the city can become cold (often below or around zero degrees centigrade), and the weather is usually foggy and rainy if not snowy. However, the city, in the few weeks before Christmas, becomes delightful to visit – the main sights are all illuminated by stunning lights, a huge Christmas tree is set up in front of the Duomo, vendors and markets can be found everywhere, many shop and display windows are decorated and the streets become bustling with locals and tourists alike. However, the only downside is that it can become extremely crowded, noisy and busy.
In spring, the weather is similar to that of autumn. People go back to work, and the atmosphere becomes more quiet, yet serious unlike that of the winter. Parks become nice to visit, as trees blossom. The city is also quite nice to visit at Carnival, where people dress up and celebrate, and during Easter, where there are special services held in churches and some special events.
In summer, Milan can become extremely hot and humid, with the odd powerful rainstorm here and there. Whilst in July, apart from the weather, most shops remain open, in August, as many locals go off to take their summer holidays, many businesses and venues shut down (with the notice Chiuso per ferie, or shut down for vacation). The city may become quite empty with the odd tourist strolling around, and with several of the main sights shut down. Despite it’s not the best time for shopping and the weather’s not at all times very pleasant, it’s good if you want to enjoy the city to yourself when it’s quiet, and maybe want to stroll around, sipping at the odd open bar or at an ice cream, or walking in a silent park. Despite many businesses shut down, some still do remain open, and you will still be able to find some open shops, restaurants and museums. However, the staff may be unfriendly, as Italians do not like to work at this time of the year.