Situated in the centre of Milan, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an extraordinary feat of architecture, an emblem of Milanese identity featuring a meld of beauty, art and luxury under an amazing glass roof.
To celebrate the Unification of Italy, between 1865 and 1867, based on a project by architect Giuseppe Mengoni, Milan built the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, named after the first king of Italy. The architectural work of this stunning arcade, which serves as a passageway between piazza del Duomo and piazza della Scala, boasts a blaze of marble, stuccoes and mosaics and is dominated by an amazing iron and glass dome standing fifty metres high. Its centre – the socalled “Ottagono” – is surmounted by imposing mosaics representing different parts of the world (Africa, America, Asia and Europe) to celebrate the centrality of the city in the world’s global economic and cultural system. One of the oldest trade centres in the world, from the time that it was built the Galleria became a city favourite for evening strolls, a place of demonstrations and a meeting point for the Milanese bourgeoisie, artists, academics and musicians, including Giuseppe Verdi and the Futurists.
An integral part of the pulsating heart of the city for almost 150 years, it is a monument, a covered arcade and home to exclusive shops and restaurants. Following its inauguration, dozens of elegant shops opened under its vaults. So much more than a shopping arcade, it exudes an air of luxury and is lined with boutiques, a seven-star hotel, landmark restaurants and cafés, including Savini, Camparino and Biffi.
In the Galleria, haute couture takes centre stage. It includes Prada, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, Borsalino, Luisa Spagnoli, Bric’s, Tod’s, Swarovski, Mercedes-Benz Spot, Stefanel and Massimo Dutti alternated with historic workshops (whose signs serve as an indication of their storied past), including Cadè (shirts and ties since 1926), Viganò Alta Moda (items for high fashion embroidery), Piumelli, renowned for its handmade gloves, Mejana, purveyors of time-honoured fountain pens and historic bookstores: Bocca, for art lovers, Libreria Poligrafico (Italian State Mint and Printing Institute) for coin collectors and the Libreria Rizzoli Galleria: three floors all dedicated to the printed word!
In the centre of the Gallery there is an enormous mosaic with the figure of a bull. the tradition suggests that you have a spin with your heel on the mosaic bulls “attributes” that make up the pavement of the Galleria’s splendid central octagon. Once a gesture to ward off evil, it has become part of the Milanese tradition and has such a following that a deep hole has formed in the pavement. it is supposed to bring you good luck also!