The entry of the Austrians in Milan, on 28 April 1814, marks the end of the Napoleonic period. After the negotiations at the Congress of Vienna nothing remained of the Kingdom of Italy, of which Milan had been the capital; instead, the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia was formed, as a mere “crown land” of the Austrian Empire. The tree of liberty placed on Piazza Duomo, right in front of the Caffè Commercio in May 1796, to hail the arrival of the French troops, vanished from view.
But the spark of national fervor Napoleon had – however unwittingly – set off, ignited projects of political independence, often linked to visions of a United Italy, completely free of foreign rule. The short but intense life of the “Conciliatore” (1818-1819), whose pages contained not only liberal and patriotic ideas but also the most advanced currents of European culture, bears witness to the ferment that swept across the city. The revolutionary movements of 1820-21 also spread to Milan, where the experiences inspired by the secret societies of the Carbonari were a dramatic failure. Hopes of independence were not revived until 1848.
Alessandro Manzoni, who was writing his masterpiece, The Betrothed, in the 1820s, witnessed and interpreted the hopes and expectations of the Milanese liberals: his ode March 1821 immortalizes those hopes in the famous line “Oh giornate del nostro riscatto!” (O the days of our own resurrection!).
The city was filled with intense activity: in 1823, at Palazzo dei Giureconsulti, the Cassa di Risparmio (Savings Bank) was opened, first in Milan and then inseven other Lombard provinces. The first nursery schools were created, thanks to the initiative of Ferrante Aporti, while in 1838 the “Cassa d’Incoraggiamento d’Arti e Mestieri” (Society for Promotion of the Arts and Trades) was formed, contributing to the modernization of productive structures in a range of sectors, from agriculture to textiles, and offering qualified courses of training and preparation for employment.