M1 (red line) - M3 (yellow line) Duomo
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele Il is a sumptuous covered passageway in the shape of a cross, 196 metres long, connecting Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala, and Via Silvio Pellico with Via Ugo Foscolo. A masterpiece of eclectic architecture, the Galleria was built on a project by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1867 to celebrate the birth of the Kingdom of Italy. Since 1877 it has been an emblem of Milanese identity, combining beauty, art and luxury under an octagonal dome made of iron and glass. It is also a meeting place, the so-called “salotto buono” of the Milanese, and today, as in the past, it is home to elegant shops and cafés, prestigious restaurants and boutiques, with their characteristic signs in gold on a black background.
A flagship landmark
For the Milanese, the Galleria has always been a special, inviting and welcoming place in the heart of the city. Under its vaults, you can stroll around admiring its architecture and elegance, or go shopping, have a lunch, a coffee or an aperitif. In fact, in addition to being a stunning feat of architecture, it can realistically be considered the oldest shopping arcade in the world.
Those crossing under its magnificent glass dome are treated to a one-of- a-kind experience. The arcade is lined with several of the world’s most famed and fabled designer stores, workshops steeped in history, landmark restaurants and cafés plus several intriguing, wellstocked bookstores.
From the outset, the municipal regulations are careful to maintain elegance and harmony, for example by obliging all establishments within the Galleria to have gold signs on a black background. The Milanese structure has been the model of inspiration for the most prestigious commercial galleries in the world: the Galleria Umberto I in Naples, as well as the Galleria in Houston, the Eaton Centre in Toronto and the Kit Galerie in Düsseldorf.
Depending on the time of the day, you will either encounter hordes of tourists, hurried office workers, foreigners from all parts of the globe or the Milanese either on their way to the theatre or to one of the area’s numerous museums or nearby attractions: the Duomo, Teatro alla Scala, Gallerie d’Italia, Palazzo Reale, the Museo del Duomo and the Museo del Novecento.
The marble floor: mosaics and decorations
In 2011, a major restoration was carried out, in particular on the beautiful floor of the Galleria: the natural stone surfaces, the marble mosaic tiles and decorative enamel components have been re-proposed in the same colours and designs as the original project, contributing strongly to the effect that strikes you as you enter here. Numerous coats of arms are reproduced on the floor including the bull, symbol of Turin, the city of origin of the monarchy but also Milan’s historic rival. Hence the custom involving the bull, which originated as a joke and entered into folklore: according to tradition, turning around with your heel on the bull brings good luck…
After many vicissitudes, reconstructions and conservative restorations, it returned to its original splendour on the occasion of Expo Milano 2015, with a new feature: the opening of a rooftop walkway, the promenade along the roofs, the “Highline Galleria”.