In Roman times, Milan was known as Mediolanum, which means "the middle of the plain" in Latin. The region where the Italian peninsula crosses into the Alps has been a central location in Europe's history for 2,000 years.
The Celts founded Milan in the seventh century B.C. Then the Romans moved in and occupied the city in the third century B.C. During this time, the area became a major outpost of the Roman Empire. Virgil, the champion of Roman poets and author of the epic "The Aeneid," was born in Lombardy. In A.D. 313, the emperor Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan, declaring Christianity the empire's official religion. Barbarians such as the Goths invaded as the empire fell. Then the Longobards (or Lombards) entered in A.D. 568 and bequeathed upon the region its name [source: Trips2Italy].
Over the centuries, a feudal society developed in the region. In the 12th century, the Lombard League brought together several city-states in opposition to the Holy Roman Emperor [source: Trips2Italy]. Milan and the region played an important role in the Italian Renaissance -- Leonardo da Vinci painted his "Last Supper" mural for the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan. Foreigners -- French, Spanish and Austrian -- controlled the region from the 15th to the 19th centuries, until finally Giuseppe Garibaldi's campaigns led to the unification of Italy in 1861.
Next to its wine, Lombardy is famous for its incredible cathedrals, palaces and museums. The most famous of these include:
- Cathedral of Milan
- Sforza Castle
- Brera Gallery
- Poldi Pezzoli Museum
- Pinacoteca Ambosiana
- The National Museum of Science and Technique
- Civic Museums
- Stradivariano Museum
- Carrara Academy Gallery
- Ducal Palace [source: Italian Tourism]
Because the area was occupied by numerous groups, the region is filled with the relics and food knowledge of many different cultures. Want to know more about grape-growing in the northern boot? Read on to learn about Lombardy's wine agriculture.