Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Why you should visit and what you need to Experience
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was last updated on Augustv 29, 2022
“Milan’s drawing room” is no ordinary drawing room! A symbol of Milanese style and wealth, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II famously known as ” il salotto di Milano” is a sophisticated, architecturally stunning 19th century shopping gallery. This elegant galleria is home to some of the most luxurious names in the fashion world, international chains, and gourmet eateries. Even if you do not want to splash out on a thing or two here, the Galleria is a must see destination solely for its architectural marvel when visiting Milan.
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About the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is more than just a “spot of shopping”. It is a landmark of the City of Milan, with 160 years of history and one of the oldest shopping gallery still standing. A visit here will not only have you look-up at the glass-dome but will also have you look-down exploring the beautifully crafted intricate mosaic floor.
1 | The design of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The extraordinary Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a four-storey double arcade, shaped like a cross. It is dominated by a stunning neoclassical iron and glass dome at 50 metres high. The Galleria features an amazingly crafted mosaic floor and an archway.
The archway connects the two most historical piazzas in Milan – Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala.
The beautiful mosaic floor contains four distinct designs, representing the coat of arms of Rome , Florence , Turin and Milan. Rome is represented y a She-wolf together with Romulus and Remus. Florence is the Lily flower. Milan is Red Cross on a white background. As for Turin, it’s a Dancing Bull (pictured below). In the central dome of the Galleria is surmounted by stunning mosaics that represents Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
2 | Legend of the Dancing Bull
The mosaic of the Dancing Bull of Turin attracts hundreds of visitors daily because of a legend associated with it. According to the legend, if you place your heel on a particular “spot” (between his two hind legs) and turn around three times, with eyes closed, it will bring you good fortune. Millions of visitors must have done this over the years because there is a hollow on the mosaic.
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3 | History of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This architectural marvel was designed in 1861 by Guiseppe Mengoni. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was built between 1865 and 1877 in honour of the first king of the realm, King Vittorio Emanuele II. However, sadly, Guiseppe Mengoni was never present for its grand opening. He was found dead under some scaffolding a few days prior. Some believed Mengoni died of a heart attack, while others say that he took his own life because he couldn’t face the criticism of his design. Mengoni did leave a tale of mystery and an architectural masterpiece!
From the time it was built, the Galleria became the city’s favourite. It was a meeting point, in particular with the Milanese bourgeoisie, academics and musicians such as Giuseppe Verdi, thus nicknamed “il salotto di Milano” (Milan’s drawing room) in the early 20th century. As a meeting point, it also became a place for student demonstrations, rallies and clashes with the police in the 1960s. Post this, the Galleria reinvented itself.
Today, it is more than a shopping arcade. It exudes an air of luxury boasting a string of high-end boutiques, and landmark eateries. It is a beautiful place to stroll, window-shop, people watch and dine. You’ll also see beautiful frescoes and arches throughout, which you can admire as you pass through.
Recommended read: How to make the best of 1 day in Milan
4 | Shops and Eateries
4.1 | Shop till you drop!
An emblem of the city’s past and present, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is filled with some of the famous Italian brands. It is one of the best places to shop in the city. One of the very first Prada stores is present in the Galleria, which opened in 1913 when the business began. Despite being renovated in the year 2000, the store still contains most of its original furnishings.
Discover the top 5 brands in and around the Galleria – Giorgio Armani | Versace | Louis Vuitton | Prada | Gucci
Milan has been world-famous for its fashion since it became one of the leading textile producers of Europe in the 19th century. The City caught the eye of fashionistas across the globe and wealthy fashion houses decided to lay down their roots in the Quadrilatero where they established luxurious shops, a sensational palazzi and alluring courtyards. Nowadays, the city is a mecca for fashion lovers world-wide.
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4.2 | Eateries
Not only is Milan the centre of fashion and design, the city is becoming increasingly popular for its gastronomical delights. There is a high number of Michelin stars , trendy and international restaurants to be found here. Going out for a meal at anytime of the day is the city’s lifestyle. Traditional cuisine of risotto and ossobuco, brioche, cocktails and trattorias are some of the favourite “must-try’s”.
Landmark restaurants and cafes include:
Café Restorante Biffi:
Biffi has been at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II since 1852 and can be found in the south wing. This cafe is named after Paolo Biffi, a pastry chef of the Monarch in the 19th century. Cafe Biffi is the oldest cafe at the Galleria. Biffi’s main specialities are Ossobucco with Milanese risotto and the Milanese cutlet. Although there are many choices, the menu has remained largely unchanged for the last twenty-five years. To enjoy a meal at Cafe Biffi will require a booking well in advance.
Occupying a perfect spot in the Galleria overlooking the white facade of the Duomo, this bar keeps alive the ritual of the Italian aperitif (aperitivo). Back in 1897, Gaspare Campari set up his restaurant (along with his home and wine shop) in the gallery, adding his Campari location in 1915. In the 1980s, the bar’s name was changed to “Bar Camparino.” Stop in to sip an iconic Campari and soda or Negroni cocktail, while nibbling on accompanying snacks. Makes a perfect break in a long day of sightseeing.
This charming, historic bookshop has been at Galleria since 1930. The bookseller was also once the official printer of the House of Savoy and published such authors as Pellico, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Freud. One of the oldest bookstores of its kind that is still in operation.
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Getting to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Getting here is pretty easy as it is at the Piazza del Duomo which is the central or starting point to begin any sightseeing activities.
Address: Piazza del Duomo, Milano
Transport : Metro Line – M1 (Red Line) or M3 (Yellow Line) and get off at Piazza del Duomo stop.
Bus – Line 61
Tram – Line 1 and 2
Pro tip: Public transport in Milan is convenient and easy to navigate.
Recommended read: How to get around Milan like a local – a perfect guide to using the public transport in Milan
On a final note
Milan is a unique place with two souls – a very traditional northern Italian one alongside one that is bustling and innovative as you can find only in few European capitals. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II perfectly resembles both the traditional and the modern, bustling, innovative Milan.
It’s your turn 🙂
What do you think? Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II? Or have you visited the Galleria and wish to share your thoughts and recommendations? If so, please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.
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Have an awesome time discovering the Galleria
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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II | Why you should visit first published at timelesstravelsteps.com
This post is regularly edited and updated. Last update August 29, 2022
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