“In Milan, we spent most of the time inside the great and magnificent Loggia, or Galleria, or whatever it’s called. Edifices formed by tall and sumptuous new structures [...] this is the Galleria. I'd like to live there forever”
Mark Twain, ‘A Tramp Abroad’
Every home has its own living room, a place to welcome guests, the best room in the house. And Milano too has its own grand “drawing room”, the magnificent nineteenth-century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Taking a “stroll in the Galleria” is a popular pastime and is akin to entering the heart of the city, a very Milanese sight: lingering is definitely de rigueur in this splendid covered arcade linking the Duomo to Teatro alla Scala. It was designed as a porticoed passageway that served as a showcase for high-class shopkeepers, a place for a leisurely stroll and an aperitif or somewhere relaxed to dine after the Opera.
The Galleria is Italy’s oldest shopping mall and - beautifully embellished with mosaics and caryatids around windows and balconies - it has maintained its lustre. The arcade’s luxury brand shops, that could easily compete with Via Montenapoleone or via della Spiga, are juxtaposed with the classic white-tablecloth restaurants, the celebrity chefs’ eateries, legendary venues like Camparino for an aperitif and the iconic Bocca art bookstore that has been in the Galleria since 1930 but already part of the city since the nineteenth century.
After a spot of shopping, a coffee or a classic Milanese risotto sitting at the tables beneath the vault, don’t forget to celebrate an ancient city ritual: to bring good luck, spin your heel around 3 times on the bull’s testicles designed in mosaic (representing the Turin coat of arms) on the floor of the gallery’s splendid central octagon.
We also recommend a stroll on the Gallery roof walkways to appreciate the wonderful panorama over Piazza del Duomo and the city and to get a better sense of the massive proportions of the steel and glass canopy. It’s one of the 10 must-see places from which to view Milano from above.
- All the premises inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are obliged to adopt retro gold lettering on a black background for their business signs, in line with the original design.
- The unique gallery with its steel and glass canopy inspired the Eiffel Tower in 1889 and the London Crystal Palace in 1851.
- The elegant white spheres that illuminate the Galleria at night are still supported by the graceful copper 19th-century posts. When this innovative lighting system, once powered by gas, was introduced a new device was also created to ignite the lamps. Every evening it ran on tracks along the entire length of the gallery carrying the flame that lit each individual lamp. The Milanese gathered to watch, fascinated by this display of modernity, the machine darted so quickly that it was immediately nicknamed the "rattìn" (mouse in dialect) because it ran as fast as a little mouse.