In the heart of Milan, right next to the Duomo Cathedral, there is the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Named after the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, it was built between 1865 and 1867 on a project by architect Giuseppe Mengoni in order to celebrate the Unification of Italy (1861). From the first time it became a common meeting point for the Milanese bourgeoisie and was nicknamed the dining-room of the city (Il salotto di Milano in italian).
It is Italy’s oldest active shopping mall decorated with mosaics, drawings and monuments on windows and balconies. There you find shops of the most luxurious brands, historic restaurants and legendary places such as Camparino, Caffè Biffi and Caffè Savini.
The collections of famous designers exhibited in the showcases look more like museum expositions rather than shops. Right here it was open in 1913 the first shop of Fratelli Prada and it is still there today.
I am pretty sure you can not wait to walk through the gallery but let’s discover some interesting facts that will enrich your experience during your visit.
1. Spinning on the bull in Galleria for good luck
On the floor of the central octagonal there are four mosaics portraying the coat of arms of the four cities that, at different times, were the Capitals of the Kingdom of Italy: Milan, Florence, Rome and finally Turin.
The most attention receives Turin’s symbol of the bull. It is said that spinning three times on the “bull’s balls” will bring you good luck. More precisely you will notice a hole developed on the place of the genitals of the bull.😉
2. The first 7-stars hotel
Can you imagine that the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery hides a seven-stars hotel? Yes, right here is located the chic top-quality Town House Seven Stars Gallerie famous for being the first hotel in the world to receive the seven-stars status of Geneva-based SGS.
💡 Interesting to know:
What are the characteristics of a seven-star hotel? The hotel should located inside a significant historical place, the number of suites must exceed the number of ordinary rooms, have elegant interiors, offer the services of a chef, butler and driver, a restaurant with unique drinks and refined dishes, entertainment programs for children, booking a theater or a cinema.
Not without reason, Town House Seven Stars Gallerie was the choice of Michelle Obama.
The penthouse of 500 square meters will cost 15,000 euros a night.
3. Galleria is the mother of all shopping malls
The central octagonal space is topped with a glass dome. The Milanese Galleria was larger in scale than its predecessors and was an important step in the evolution of the modern glazed and enclosed shopping mall, of which it was the direct progenitor.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele has inspired the use of the term galleria for many similar constructions, both in Italy (Galleria Umberto I in Naples) and abroad (Toronto Eaton Centre and Houston and Dallas Galleries).
4. The architect of the Gallery died before its opening
Giuseppe Mengoni, unfortunately, did not see the magnificence of the Galleria, he died before the end of the work. There is a mistery about his dead, no one knows if it was an accident or a suicide due the critics he received.
Mengoni died falling from the scaffoldings in the middle of the Galleria. The official investigation had not led to any conclusions.
5. The first construction in Italy to combine metal and glass
The gallery is designed in the form of a Latin cross, the octagonal center of which is decorated with mosaics, each of them symbolizes a separate continent: Europe, Asia, America and Africa. It is the first construction in Italy to combine metal and glass and the central dome has a maximum height of about 47 meters with a diameter of almost 37 meters, covering an area of 110 square meters. Each wing above the arch of the Gallery hosts real works of art symbolizing agriculture, art, industry and science.
6. One style for the signs of shops and restaurants: gold letters on a black background
Walking in the Gallery pay attention to the sings of the restaurants and shops. You will find that there is something in common among them. To maintain the same visual identity all the establishments inside the Gallery must follow precise rules and each sign must be with gold lettering on a black background as defined at the time of the first opening of the gallery.
Wheather you pass there by day or by night it is always magnificent. This architectual marvel perfectly resembles both traditional and the moden innovative Milan.😉
Enjoy your tour.