The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the oldest shopping galleries in the world and is where 19th-century architectural grandiosity meets high-end, modern-day luxury. The grand arcade not only gives tourists a chance to mingle with Milan’s elite, but also enjoy a mysterious sojourn to yesteryear. While many people travel to this famous monument to shop and browse the haute couture of extravagant retailers, others come to enjoy the majesty and grandeur of this significant masterpiece, while recounting its tragic history.
Named after King Victor Emmanuel II who laid the first stone in 1865, this magnificent gallery was built and designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Mengoni, officially opening in 1867. And while it remained open to the public, work continued on the project for another decade, mainly on its entrance. Mengoni died in 1877, only days before the galleries completion, but the gallery became popular among the Milanese bourgeoisie, who dubbed it ‘Milan’s drawing room’.
Today, the mall is a showcase of flagship stores from Prada, Versace, Louis Vuitton and other top names in the fashion industry. The plaza continues to attract the wealthy and tourists alike in modern day, with foundation restaurant, Biffi, still serving its acclaimed fare to customers. With its imposing glass and cast-iron ceilings, the impressive marketplace consists of a double arcade which meets an octagonal central space, roofed with a monolithic dome. Connecting Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala, the space makes patrons feel like they are shopping in the open air.
The arcade’s intricate mosaic tiling is also another noteworthy attraction of the gallery. Covering the floor space of the central dome is King Vittorio Emanuele's family coat of arms, plus various symbols of Milan, including a bull representing the capital of Turin. Visitors are often seen spinning on their heels on the bull’s testicles because legend has it that if you spin three times here, you are guaranteed good luck. It's with this frivolity and fun, complemented by Mengoni’s tragedy, which makes the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II an intriguing place to visit, and a must-see for first-time visitors to Milan.