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Anywhere else in the world, a shopping mall would be just that: a place to get your shopping and perhaps to grab a drink and a bite to eat. But this is Milan, fashion capital of a country where style is de rigeur, and the architecture of the Galleria Vittorio Emaneule II is just as impressive as the shops within it. Known as il salotto di Milano (literally Milan’s living room), the magnificent Galleria is situated in the heart of the city, between the Cathedral and La Scala opera house, and it is as much a place to meet and to be seen as it is a place to shop.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
The elegant architecture of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

History and Architecture of the Galleria

Glass covered shopping arcades became popular in the 19th century with the building of the Burlington Arcade in London. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was the first such arcade in Italy. It was larger than earlier arcades, and in its turn it influenced the design of future shopping centres, including the Galleria Umberto I in Naples.

The Galleria, named after the ruler of the newly formed Italian kingdom, is an extravagant Neo-classical iron and steel structure built in the form of a cross with two intersecting streets. The centre is topped with a huge glass dome, and beneath this are four frescoes depicting Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Mosaics on the floor represent the coats of arms of Milan and neighbouring cities.

You may be surprised to see tourists spinning wildly on one of these mosaics. This is due to a legend that promises good luck to anyone who spins their right heel on the genitals of the Bull of Turin!

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
The Galleria is full of shops and restaurants

Shops and Restaurants

This is not a place for everyday shopping. The streets are lined with luxury shops and elegant boutiques. Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci are just some of the names you will find here. Although if you look hard enough you will find places where you can pick up inexpensive souvenirs of your visit.

But you may prefer to stop for a long leisurely coffee or a meal at one of the restaurants (Il Salotto is a good choice). There is no fast food here: you will have plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere and watch people going by.

Galleria 2
The Galleria continues to attract crowds until late in the evening


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