Milan’s Landmark of Elegance: La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Updated On: November 10, 2023
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of Milan’s most significant landmarks. Located at the heart of the city, this four-story double arcade is Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery. The Galleria is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy, and has a rich history dating back to the 19th century.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is renowned for its stunning architecture and cultural significance. The arcade’s design is a masterpiece of iron and glass, with a soaring glass dome at the centre. The Galleria has been a hub of Milanese life since its opening in 1877, attracting tourists and locals alike with its high-end boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. The Galleria is also home to some of the oldest establishments in Milan, including Café Biffi, founded in 1867.
Picture Milan in the 19th century: a city bustling with creativity and innovation. Enter Giuseppe Mengoni, an architect with a grand vision. He dreamed of a place that would be a centre of commerce, culture, and community. The result? La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a magnificent arcade that became an iconic symbol of Milan. Built between 1865 and 1877, it’s a blend of art and architecture, and it’s stood the test of time as a testament to Italy’s rich history.
The construction of La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was commissioned by the Municipality of Milan in 1861. The objective was to create a covered passage connecting Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala. The project was awarded to Giuseppe Mengoni, who was selected in a public competition. Mengoni’s design was a double arcade with a glass-vaulted roof, which intersected in an octagon. The arcade was to be decorated with frescoes, sculptures, and mosaics.
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a masterpiece of 19th-century Italian architecture. The arcade is an octagonal double arcade with two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in an octagon. The arcade’s roof is made of iron and glass, which allows natural light to flood the space. The arcade’s floor is made of marble mosaics, which are arranged in intricate patterns. The arcade’s walls are decorated with frescoes, sculptures, and mosaics.
Renovation and Modernisation
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has undergone several renovations and modernisations over the years. The first renovation took place in the 1920s when the arcade’s electrical system was updated. In the 1950s, the arcade’s roof was reinforced with steel cables. In the 1980s, the arcade underwent a significant renovation, which included the restoration of the frescoes, sculptures, and mosaics.
The arcade’s floor was also restored, and new shops and restaurants were added. In 2012, the arcade underwent another renovation, which included the installation of a new lighting system and the addition of new luxury boutiques.
Architectural Significance of La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
The architectural significance of La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is like a splendid chapter in Milan’s design diary. With its magnificent glass-and-iron roof, marbled floors, and intricate mosaics, it’s a mesmerising blend of classical and Renaissance styles.
The four grand entrances representing Europe, America, Africa, and Asia, are not just doors; they’re gateways to an era when architecture was a form of art. This splendid structure isn’t just a shopping haven; it’s an ode to Milan’s rich design heritage.
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the epitome of Neo-Classical elegance, effortlessly blending history and sophistication. Its ornate facades, grand archways, and magnificent iron-and-glass dome transport you to a bygone era of architectural opulence.
Neo-Classical style is all about paying homage to the past while remaining eternally chic, and this Milanese masterpiece embodies it with flair. It’s the kind of place where you’ll feel like you’re strolling through history in the most stylish way possible.
The Octagonal Central Dome
One of the most striking features of La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is its central dome, which is octagonal in shape and rises to a height of 47 metres. The dome is made of glass and cast iron, and it is decorated with beautiful frescoes and mosaics. It is also topped by a statue of the first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, after whom the arcade is named.
Mosaics and Decorations
The arcade is decorated with beautiful mosaics and frescoes that depict various scenes from Italian history and mythology. The mosaics are made from tiny pieces of coloured glass and are incredibly detailed and intricate. The frescoes are painted on the walls and ceilings of the arcade and feature a range of subjects, from classical mythology to modern Italian life.
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is not just a shopping arcade but also a cultural icon in Milan. Its influence on Italian architecture and popular culture is undeniable. This section explores the cultural impact of the Galleria.
Role in Milan’s Urban Life
Since its opening in 1877, the Galleria has been a central meeting point for Milanese people. It has become a symbol of Milan’s urban life and has been an important landmark for locals and tourists alike. The Galleria’s central location next to the Piazza del Duomo has made it a hot spot for events and celebrations. It has also been a popular filming location for movies and TV shows, such as House of Gucci (2021) and Anna (2019).
Influence on Italian and International Architecture
The Galleria is a prime example of 19th-century Italian architecture. Its design has influenced many other buildings in Italy and around the world. The Galleria’s iron and glass roof was an innovative engineering feat at the time of its construction. Its design has inspired other architects to create similar structures, such as the Crystal Palace in London.
The Galleria’s iconic structure has been featured in numerous movies, including The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) and Ocean’s Twelve (2004). Its influence on popular culture has led to the creation of Galleria-inspired designs in fashion and interior design. The Galleria’s influence on Italian architecture and culture is evident in its continued popularity and recognition as a cultural icon.
It’s not just the jaw-dropping architecture that makes La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II the belle of the ball. This place is a shopaholic’s paradise, boasting some of the world’s most prestigious brands and boutiques. Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton—they’re all here, ready to drain your wallet in style. When you need a shopping break, there are chic cafes and upscale restaurants offering the perfect blend of Milanese culinary delights and people-watching opportunities.
Shops and Restaurants
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is home to a wide range of shops and restaurants, making it the perfect destination for tourists and locals alike. The arcade is famous for its luxury fashion boutiques, including Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Visitors can also find a variety of high-end jewellery stores, bookshops, and souvenir shops.
There are many restaurants and cafes located inside the arcade, serving traditional Italian cuisine, coffee, and gelato. For those looking for a quick bite, there are also fast food outlets and snack bars.
The Bull Mosaic
One of the most iconic features of La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the Bull Mosaic. The mosaic is located on the floor of the arcade and is in the shape of a charging bull. It is believed that if a person spins around three times on the bull’s testicles, it will bring them good luck.
The Bull Mosaic has become a popular tourist attraction, with many visitors taking photos and videos of themselves spinning on the bull. However, due to the wear and tear caused by the constant spinning, the mosaic has been replaced several times.
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is known for its high-end brands, making it a popular destination for luxury shoppers. The arcade is home to some of the world’s most prestigious brands, including Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.
Visitors can also find a range of Italian luxury brands, such as Versace, Armani, and Dolce & Gabbana. In addition to fashion, the arcade is home to high-end jewellery stores, bookshops, and souvenir shops.
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a must-visit attraction for tourists in Milan. In this section, we will discuss some tips and tricks to enhance your tourist experience.
Guided tours are an excellent way to explore the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Several tour companies offer guided tours in English, Italian, and other languages. These tours are usually conducted by knowledgeable guides who can provide you with insights and information about the Galleria’s history, architecture, and cultural significance. You can book a tour online or at the Galleria’s information desk.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a photographer’s paradise. The stunning architecture, intricate details, and beautiful lighting make it an ideal location for snapping pictures. Here are some photography tips to help you capture the best shots:
- Use a wide-angle lens to capture the grandeur of the Galleria’s architecture.
- Try different angles and perspectives to create unique compositions.
- Take advantage of the natural light to capture the beautiful colours and textures of the Galleria.
- Try using a tripod to stabilise your camera and create sharper images.
- Be mindful of other visitors and avoid blocking their path while taking photos.
Location and Accessibility
Getting to La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a breeze. It’s situated in Milan’s city centre, near the Piazza del Duomo. The location is easily accessible by public transportation, including buses and the metro. Visitors can take the metro or the bus to the Duomo station, which is located just a few steps away from the entrance to the Galleria.
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is open every day of the week, including weekends and holidays. The opening hours are from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Visitors should note that the shops and restaurants within the Galleria may have different opening hours, so it is recommended to check with individual establishments for their specific opening times.
Is La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Wheelchair-Friendly?
In terms of accessibility, the ground floor exhibition of the Galleria, including the Discovery Zone and Museum gift shop, is wheelchair accessible. Also, there are 2 lifts to take you to the first floor, where the Mammals of the World exhibition and Reading Room are located. One lift is located in the centre of the Galleria, near the Duomo di Milano. The other one is located in the corner of the Galleria, near the Teatro alla Scala.
However, if you’re seeking a different perspective of La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, you’re in for a treat. The Highline Galleria offers a unique experience that’s anything but average. From Monday to Sunday, between 10:00 and 20:00, you can take a stroll on the rooftop walk and soak in Milan’s stunning skyline. Getting there is a breeze – just hop into one of the two lifts that whisk you up to this breathtaking vantage point.
La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is where history meets haute couture, culture embraces cuisine, and Milan shows off its magic. As you step out of its grandeur into the bustling streets, you’ll carry a piece of Milan’s heart with you.