Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – Why you should visit and what you need to Experience
“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.
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
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 neoclassical glass domed at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
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.
Legend of the Dancing Bull
The mosaic of the Dancing Bull of Turin
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.
2 | History of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This architectural marvel was designed in 1861 by Guiseppe Mengoni. It 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.
3 | Shops and Eateries
3.1 | 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. Learn more & Book your guided tour here.
3.2 | Eateries
Landmark restaurants and cafes include:
Café Restorante Biffi: which has been here 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.
Bar Camparino: 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.
Libreria Bocca. 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.
Milan is a unique place with two souls, a very traditional northern Italian one, and one that is bustling and innovative as you can find only in few European capitals. Taste food from only passionate and high-quality local producers, some of the best food venues that only locals know, and experience the greatest sample of what Milan has to offer. Learn more & secure your tour here
4 | Take a walk on the roof
The Galleria recently opened Highline Galleria – a walkway on the roof of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This exciting journey allow you, for the first time to admire the Duomo from a unique and fascinating perspective.
The walkway stretches 820 feet from Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala. Access is via two high-speed elevators that are located inside the courtyard at Via Silvio Pellico 2.
The rooftop walk is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00. Tickets costs €12.
You can book the full experience at the official website of Highline Galleria here.
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.
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