Designed and constructed by Giuseppe Mengoni, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was opened for business in 1877. The four-story mall consists of two glass-vaulted arcades which intersect at what amounts to a grand central courtyard.
The galleria is situated immediately between two additional signature landmarks of Milan - La Scala Opera House and the Duomo/Cathedral with its grand plaza.
We were rather surprised and disappointed to see a McDonald's amongst the luxury retailers and restaurants of the mall (this was in 2010), but have read that the city denied it a lease renewal in 2012. I've not heard further if Micky D's lawsuit has been resolved. Personally, I'm glad to see it gone; it was totally out of character for this grand old lady of a galleria.
A popular and off-beat feature of the central galleria is the mosaic bull from the coat of arms of Turin. According to tradition, if a person puts his or her right heel on the bull's genitals and turns on himself three times, this will bring good luck. After several decades of folks spinning around, the bull's genitals are no longer visible, replaced by a cone-shaped hole.
This is not your average shopping mall.
Milan’s gigantic, glass-covered arcade is a statement: a symbolic transition between heaven and earth; a marriage of the secular and sacred; a celebration of a newly unified country. On one end is Piazza della Scala: home of the historic opera house and city hall. You emerge at the other end to Piazza della Duomo, dominated by the towering facade of the cathedral. In between is a 643-foot passageway - the longer of two that comprise its cruciform design - lined with upscale restaurants and luxury-brand shops.
It was built between 1865 - 1877, around after the end of Il Risorgimento: a series of revolutions that culminated in the consolidation of separate states into the Kingdom of Italy. The new king, Victor Emmanuel II, laid the cornerstone, and it was dedicated in 1867 although some finishing work continued for another decade. From the patterns on the floor to the statuary high above, imagery of regional and national pride are everywhere and illustrate an Italy ready to combine its intellectual, creative and cultural heritages into a progressive force to be reckoned with. An immediate success as a shopping mecca and local gathering place, its architect, Giuseppe Mengoni, is said to have fallen to his death from the arch that was the last piece to be completed on the very last day of its construction. Sad, that.
Unless you have a Gucci budget it’s best to skip the shopping and concentrate on the architecture. You can probably see the golden arches in one of my photos? Yes indeed, there was a Mickey D’s here for 20 years but the City Fathers decided to replace it with another Prada store so no more McMuffins, sorry. Outraged Milanese (yes, really) set up a Facebook page to mourn the loss of a favorite hangout where you could order up a beer or glass of wine with your Big Mac. Gotta love the Italians...
This is essentially a roofed-over shopping center, but a very elegant and historical one, built from 1865 to 1867 in the very center of Milan. It was named after the then-reigning king of Italy, who was in fact the first king of Italy after unification.
Don't even think about buying anything here in the Galleria, but it's a beautiful place to walk through and it's very convenient because it's the shortest way to walk between the Cathedral Square (Piazza Duomo) and the opera house (Teatro alla Scala).
Second photo: People walking through the Galleria.
Third photo: The Galleria at night.
Fourth photo: The Galleria as seen from the roof of the nearby cathedral.
Apart from the Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the most famous icon of Milan, and it was the only other attraction I had heard of before I started researching for our trip. When we got there, we were a little disappointed at first because it was very different to what we had expected, but later we liked it well enough.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built from 1865 to 1867. It connects the Piazza del Duomo with the Piazza della Scala.
From the outside, the Galleria is very impressive, with its grand façade. It looks more like a huge imperial arch or the entrance to a palace than like a shopping mall! Inside, this impression continues: The interior is so luxurious, and there are many details to discover and admire. In the middle of the galleria, there is a large octagon which displays four different mosaics: The emblems of Rome, Florence, Venice and Torino. You might often see tourists stepping onto the bull with one heel and spinning around - a local custom that is now one of the must dos for many tourists. In picture 3, you can see the emblem of Rome.
The glass cupola above the octagon is 47m high, and around it there are mosaics of four continents, Europe, Africa, Asia and America - Australia is left out (see picture 4).
All this is very impressive and elegant for sure, but altogether, the galleria was smaller than we had thought. This means that there are also not as many shops as the travel guides make it sound, but that is just as well because they are all luxurious high fashion shops anyway, and nothing we could or want to effort :-) The galleria is still worth a visit to see its architecture, and because it is a fast and easy way to get from the Duomo area to the Piazza della Scala and surroundings.
You can see more pictures in this travelogue
I'm not usually one for gawping at the touristy stuff during my city visits, nor indeed am I one for writing about them, but here in Milan I gawped, good and proper, at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
And now I'm writing about it!
I suppose it must be an Italian thing to build a shopping mall to celebrate the unification of the nation after the then King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II (along with Guiseppe Garibaldi), triumphed over the Austrian Empire. But what a grandoise shopping mall it is with its four-storey twin arcades of ornate buildings forming two streets crossing octagonally under the 164 foot high, finely-engineered, steel and glass dome. This is where the poshest of posh shops are to be found including Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton, some fashionable (and expensive) restaurants and cafes and, somewhat incongruously, a MacDonald's.
As well as the ornateness of the buildings and structure there are a set of paintings on the upper storey of the buildings around the central octagon which depict the Continents whilst the mosaicced marble floor centres around the city's coat-of-arms with the signs of the zodiac around it.
Yep, definitely a must-see and be prepared to gawp!
The shopping gallery of Vittorio Emanuele II is just astonishing, and unlike any arcade I have seen anywhere in the world. Its cavernous interior is akin to the nearby cathedral , and is very much a place to worship at the alter of capitalistic consumerism. Right in the centre, underneath the fabulous glass dome, are some of the greatest names in fashion and good taste, such as Prada, Savini and .... McDonalds? Right next to some of the most exclusive shops and restaurants on the planet, in one of the grandest shopping arcades in the world, is an enormous, and to me wholly inappropriate, McDonalds restaurant. Still, the restaurant is fairly tasteful, and doesn't really detract from the whole glamour and glory of the galleria, but it is an amusing sight.
The inside passages are seriously stylish - names such as Prada, Gucci, Vuitton, Swarovski as well as top of the range restaurants and cafes. Sadly - a sign of the times as far as high rentals are concerned - there's also, controversially, a McDonalds.
But the design is stunning with its glass roof, ornate decor and beautiful mosaics and frescoes.
It's Milan so its got to be style.
This elegant arcade is the precursor to the modern shopping mall. Connecting the Piazza Duomo with Piazza Scala, it is one of the first iron and glass buildings (1865) in Italy.
Lined with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, its a wonderful (if expensive) way of watching Milanese life pass you by (or, if you take a table at a cafe at the Duomo end, Milanese and tourists).
(See separate tip for the inside).
The galleria enjoys being the Milan's most important meeting and dining place. It consists of numerous shops and restaurants, boutiques and fast food places. Besides, it has a historical value. A really nice place to spend an hour or two in any season.
This indoor arcade market is located on the northern side of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, and connects it to the Piazza della Scala. It is called after the first king of united Italy. It was designed in 1861 and its construction was finished in 1877. Its central space is octagonal and is with a glas roof on the top.
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