Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milan

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan is one of the most famous shopping galleries in the world. It has five floors and is affectionately known as the “Living Room of Milan.” The triumphal arch at the entrance and the glass roof are world famous.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milan
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Useful information

The address of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Piazza Duomo, 20123 Milano (tel. +39 0277404343). Metro: Duomo (lines M1, M3).

History and description

In 1860, Milan wanted to realize a new project for the historic area between the Duomo and the famous opera house La Scala. It was not until 1863, at the third competition, that they finally chose the design of Giuseppe Mengoni, an architect from Bologna. Mengoni had designed a huge glass-covered arcade to connect the two famous buildings. His design was based on the shopping arcades of Paris.

Mengoni’s design did end up being modified though. He had had only one long corridor in mind, but the city decided to add the side corridors to the original project.

King Vittorio Emanuele II himself laid the first stone in 1865. Work proceeded quickly even though the project was initially unpopular because it required the razing of a historic district. The inauguration took place after 2 ½ years (although work on the majestic entrance would continue for another 10 years). By that time, public opinion had changed. The Galleria quickly acquired the nickname “Living Room of Milan” (Il Salotto di Milano).

The day before the work was completed Mengoni fell from the triumphal arch and died.

The floor plan of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is that of a Greek cross. The longer walkway is 196 meters long and the shorter 105.5. The walkways are covered with a structure of iron and glass and intersect at an octagonal plaza under a 47-meter-high glass dome.

The Piazza del Duomo entrance is marked by a huge triumphal arch. For the architect, the Galleria was the symbol of the Italian Unification that had taken shape during its construction and the building is therefore decorated with all kinds of patriotic symbols. The floor mosaics show the coat of arms of the Savoys (the royal family) and the symbols of the cities of Rome (the wolf), Florence (the lily), Turin (the bull) and of course Milan itself (a white flag with a red cross). The bull often needs to be restored: According to a Milanese superstition, it brings good luck when standing with one’s heel on the testicles of the beast, turning around three times. This custom has its origins in the rivalry between the cities of Milan and Turin.

All stores in the Galleria are contractually obliged to have a sign with golden letters on a black background.

The statues under the glass roof of the facades represent Italian artists and scientists, while the four mosaics in the lunettes under the central dome represent Europe, America, Asia and Africa. These date back to 1911 and replace the original frescoes that were already faded.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

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