The history of how and why Milan became such a politically and economically important city - a centre for trading, commerce and the trade fairs of Fiera Milano

Because of Milan's central position in the middle of the widest plains in all Italy, it has always been important politically and economically.

Important since ancient times

The Insubrian settlement of Celtic Gauls was "located in the middle of important roads (in the middle of the plain)"; and much later, the historian Polybius would attest that this was "the most commanding position in the territory of the Insubres".

The Roman's conquered the Celtic settlement here in 222 BC and renamed it Mediolanum, now Milan. More than 400 years later, with Roman control expanding to Spain, Greece, Turkey, North Africa and France, and then even more to Germany, Britain and the Middle East, and the eventual splitting of the administration of the Empire in two; Mediolanum, not Rome, was made capital of the Western Roman Empire in 286 AD (while the capital of the Eastern Empire was then in Nicomedia / Izmit Turkey). Milan was anointed an international centre because of its strategic importance.

(SEE also the detailed article on the Origins and Foundation of Milan.)

The grand entrance to Mediolanum on the road from Rome, the gate known as Porta Romana, with incredibly long covered colonnades running about 600m all the way to the Roman Walls of the city - a reconstruction from the Roman Imperial era made in illustration. Image Credit:

World Expo 1906

In modern times, two years after the 1904 World's Fair in St Louis, Missouri (and then one in Liege, Belgium, 1905), a World's Fair was held in Milan in 1906 - the first in Italy. (Italy has held World Expos in Turin 1911 and Genoa 1992; but never in Rome. Milan, with Expo 2015, is one of the few cities to host a World Expo more than once.)

The Milan Expo 1906 was held on two sites close to each other: exhibits related to arts and sciences were held at the large Parco Sempione (grounds of the Sforza Castle), while exhibits related to industry and commerce were held at the equally large Piazza d'Armi to the west (this was in fact the new Piazza d'Armi, that is, a military parade ground, as the the old one was once where Parco Sempione stood to serve the previous rulers at the castle there). In the words of one writer: "The (1906) Expo in Milan ratified the economical and social rebirth of Milan, consecrating it as Italian industrial capital."

Old illustration of Milan Expo 1906 showing exhibitions in Parco Sempione on the right, and in what was then the Piazza d'Armi to the left, which later became the permanent grounds for regular trade fairs that became associated with the name Fiera Milano. Image Credit: 

Continued use for trade fairs at this site to the present

While Parco Sempione reverted to its use as a park, trade fairs began to be held during the 1920's at the Piazza d'Armi site and it has been associated with trade fairs ("fiera") ever since then - it is a massive business and industry for Milan. The last major change to the institutional structures running these trade fairs was made around the year 2000 when the "Fiera Milano" company was created and later floated on the stock exchange in 2002.

The area in and around what was the Piazza d'Armi has long not been commonly referred to by that name - the area is usually referred to with some association to its trade fair use, and often simply shortened to just "Fiera". The latest incarnation of Fiera Milano's presence in this area has been named Fieramilanocity (SEE Fieramilanocity marked dark blue in the interactive Milanfinally Google Map of Milan), In fact, the name "Fieramilanocity" has sometimes been added by the ATM transport company to describe the names of nearby Metro stations on the red M1 line: "Lotto - Fieramilanocity" and also "Amendola - Fieramilanocity".

The weirdly wonderful MiCo convention centre, Europe's largest, completed 2012 (yes, it is finished despite the look), is at the end of Via Silva - as you can see it is converted from the exhibition halls of Fieramilanocity which continues further along to the north - as seen on Google Maps

Fiera Milano moves focus out to Rho

In 2005 Fiera Milano inaugurated their new larger grounds in a northwestern extremity of Milan, far beyond Milan's external ring road, in Rho (the same destination that serves the World Expo 2015 in Milan - SEE the Expo 2015 site marked in red on the interactive Milanfinally Google Map of Milan) - and they took the name "Fieramilano" (how imaginatively different - and potentially confusing with the many things at their old site associated with the Fiera Milano name). The red M1 Metro line was extended to Rho Fiera that year (with another intermediate station of Pero).

Some dismantling and redevelopment around the older Fieramilanocity site has been taking place in the years since then, including the ambitious Citylife development, a new residential and business district for Milan with huge and amazingly designed towers, and the striking Milan MiCo (Milano Congressi convention centre), Europe's largest, with capacity for attendance by 18,000 people, completed in 2012, which was actually a very innovative redevelopment of some existing exhibition halls built in the 1990's (SEE the MiCo photo above).

Fieramilano exhibition pavilions at the latest Rho Fiera grounds. See the location of this photo by gigman @


Popular Articles

Milan - tram routes through central downtown

City Transport System Network in Milan, and Buying Tickets for the Metro, Trams & Buses

Milan's best & biggest shopping centres and shopping malls - some easily reached from the centre of Milan, the big malls outside Milan