The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II stands as a lavish covered passage, forming a cross-shaped structure extending 196 meters. This architectural gem links Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala and connects Via Silvio Pellico with Via Ugo Foscolo.
Crafted between 1865 and 1867, this masterpiece of eclectic design, conceived by Giuseppe Mengoni, was created to commemorate the birth of the Kingdom of Italy. Since 1877, it has represented an iconic symbol of Milan, seamlessly blending aesthetics, art, and opulence beneath its octagonal dome, a structural marvel constructed from iron and glass.
It is not just a physical space; the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a hub of social interaction, often referred to as the “salotto buono” (the good living room) by Milanese locals. Today, much like in the past, it hosts elegant shops, chic cafes, prestigious restaurants, and boutiques, each adorned with distinctive signage in gold against a black backdrop.
For Milanese residents, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has always held a special place in their hearts, providing a warm and inviting sanctuary in the heart of the city. Its vaulted corridors invite leisurely strolls, allowing visitors to marvel at its architectural grandeur and sophistication. Furthermore, it offers the opportunity for shopping, dining, enjoying coffee, or savoring an aperitif. Beyond its architectural significance, it can genuinely be considered the world’s oldest shopping arcade.
Stepping under its magnificent glass dome is a truly unique experience. The arcade is graced by several of the world’s most renowned designer boutiques, historic workshops, iconic restaurants, and cafes, as well as well-stocked bookstores.
From its inception, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has adhered to meticulous municipal regulations aimed at preserving its elegance and harmony. For instance, all establishments within the Galleria are obliged to display gold signs against a black background. This Milanese establishment has served as a source of inspiration for the most prestigious commercial galleries worldwide, such as the Galleria Umberto I in Naples, the Galleria in Houston, the Eaton Centre in Toronto, and the Kit Galerie in Düsseldorf.
Depending on the time of day, visitors may encounter throngs of tourists, busy professionals, international travelers from all corners of the globe, or Milanese locals en route to the theater or one of the area’s numerous museums and nearby attractions, including the Duomo, Teatro alla Scala, Gallerie d’Italia, Palazzo Reale, the Museo del Duomo, and the Museo del Novecento.
In 2011, a significant restoration project revitalized the Galleria, focusing particularly on its magnificent flooring. The natural stone surfaces, marble mosaic tiles, and decorative enamel elements were meticulously restored to replicate the original colors and patterns. This restoration contributed significantly to the striking ambiance as you step inside. The floor features numerous coats of arms, including the bull, symbolizing Turin, the monarchy’s city of origin, and Milan’s historic rival. This gave rise to a tradition where spinning around with your heel on the bull is believed to bring good luck.
After enduring various trials, reconstructions, and preservation efforts, the Galleria was returned to its original splendor in time for Expo Milano 2015. A new addition was the introduction of a rooftop walkway, the “Highline Galleria,” allowing visitors to stroll along the gallery’s rooftops and take in breathtaking views of the city.