“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’
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a commercial gallery in Milan which, in the form of a covered pedestrian street, connects Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala. Simply called "the Gallery" by the Milanese, it is often considered as one of the first examples of a shopping center in the world.
Built in record time to a design by the Bolognese architect Giuseppe Mengoni, the Gallery aroused great controversy, but soon became the living room of Milan due to the presence of cafes that flanked the shops on the ground floor.
Created to celebrate the unification of Italy recently achieved by the hand of Vittorio Emanuele II, to whom it is dedicated, the Gallery has over the years been the scene of the most important historical evolutions of the city: from the development of Futurism to the appearance of electric lighting , to the terrible bombings of 1943 which heavily damaged the structures.
Milan living room
Due to the presence of elegant shops and clubs, since its inauguration it was the meeting place of the Milanese bourgeoisie, so much so that it was nicknamed the "Milan living room": built in the Neo-Renaissance style, it is one of the most famous examples of European iron architecture and represents the archetype of the nineteenth century shopping arcade.
After a spot of shopping, a coffee, or a classic Milanese cotoletta sitting at the tables beneath the vault, don’t forget to celebrate an ancient city ritual: to invoke good luck, spin your heel 3 times around over the bull’s testicles in mosaic (representing the Turin coat of arms) on the floor of the gallery’s splendid central octagon.