Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Planning Your Trip

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Italy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Address del Duomo, 20123 Milano MI, Italy
Phone +39 02 8845 5555

If cosmopolitan Milan is Italy's undeniable center of fashion and culture, then Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is its sophisticated nucleus. Located on Piazza Duomo, to the left of the front entrance of Milan's majestic cathedral, the architecturally stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is an ornate shopping arcade with a star-studded list of luxury emporiums, international chain and department stores, and trendy gourmet eateries. It's considered one of Milan's best shopping destinations.

A symbol of Milanese style and wealth, the gallery features intricate mosaic floors and a magnificent archway into its portico-covered "streets." It also displays one of Umberto Boccioni's masterpieces, "Riot in the Gallery" (Rissa in Galleria). Standing 154 feet tall and comprised of 389 tons of iron (mostly used to build the skeletal supports of the glass roof), the Galleria is a must-see destination on any visit to the city.

A Bit of History

The Galleria was designed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni in the Renaissance Revival style popular at the time. Construction broke ground in 1865 and was completed less than two years later – an astonishing achievement even by modern standards. But a dark cloud hung over the grand opening—just days before the building's inauguration, Signor Mengoni's lifeless body was discovered lying beneath scaffolding. Some believed he died of a heart attack, while others speculated that he had committed suicide rather than face harsh criticism of his work.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was nicknamed "il salotto di Milano" (Milan's drawing room) because of its popularity with the city's bourgeoisie. In the late 1960s, its complexion drastically changed, dominated by radical student demonstrations, rallies, debates, and clashes with police. But the Galleria managed to reinvent itself yet again, and today it's a gorgeous place to stroll, people-watch, shop, and dine.

Best Time to Visit

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, although shops and restaurants may operate on their own schedules. It is busiest on weekends, particularly Saturdays, and also on weekdays between 12 and 6 p.m. The mall is a major attraction in one of the busiest parts of the city so you can expect it to be much more crowded and filled with tourists during the high season between June and August. During the rest of the year, fashion week events in the fall, winter, and spring make this an exciting time to check out the latest trends in Italian fashion.

Things to Do

A major retail mecca and popular meeting point for the affluent and hip, the Galleria's predominant attraction is shopping. Its abundance of high-end boutiques, breathtakingly expensive designer shops—think Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton—and a see and be seen vibe make it a fun place for people-watching and retail therapy—or just some wishful window-shopping. If shopping isn't your thing, a visit to the mall comes with a few other traditions and many ways to enjoy the stunning architecture.

The gallery's floors are decorated with the signs of the zodiac and at the building's octagonal center, you may notice a crowd gathered around one of the figures: Taurus the Bull. A symbol borrowed from the Savoy coat of arms, the bull is said to bring good luck to those who spin on their heels three times over his testicles. This would explain the deep hole that has formed in the pavement below the animal's attributes.

Libreria Bocca is a charming, historic shop that has been a Galleria mainstay since 1930. The bookseller was also once the official printer of the House of Savoy and published such authors as Pellico, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Freud. One of the oldest bookstores of its kind still in operation, it features a retail division (national and foreign titles) and continues to produce books and newspapers, as well as promote cultural events, art exhibits, book presentations, and conferences.

If you're seeking a new view of the city, consider checking out the Highline walkway on the mall's rooftop. It stretches 820 feet from Piazza Duomo to Piazza della Scala and can be accessed via two high-speed elevators that are located inside the courtyard at Via Silvio Pellico 2.

What to Eat and Drink

Among the scores of tempting places to eat, drink, and shop in the Galleria, there are a few historic standouts that are worth making a trip for. Savini was established in 1867 during the Galleria's Belle Epoque period and is famous for serving what is considered the best risotto allo zafferano (saffron risotto) in the city. The dish, a Milanese tradition, is said to have been a favorite of Princess Grace of Monaco, back when she was just the commoner and American actress, Grace Kelly.

Bar Camparino occupies an envied spot in the Galleria overlooking the lacy, white facade of the cathedral, this drinking establishment keeps alive the ritual of the Italian aperitif (aperitivo). Back in 1897, liquor magnate Gaspare Campari set up his restaurant (along with his home and wine shop) in the gallery, adding his Campari location in 1915. In the 1980s, the bar's name was changed to "Bar Camparino." Stop in to sip an iconic Campari and soda or Negroni cocktail, while nibbling on accompanying snacks.

Things to Do Nearby

The Galleria is in the heart of Milan's centro storico and, as such, is close to several of the city's major attractions. The Duomo di Milano is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Built in the 14th century, it took over 500 years to complete. It is located, appropriately, on the Piazza Duomo. Walking from Piazza Duomo through the Galleria's corridor to the other side, you'll arrive at La Scala, one of the most famous and beautiful opera houses in the world. Before your trip, check for upcoming performances and reserve your tickets in advance

The Gallerie d’Italia is an important art museum exhibiting contemporary Italian works from the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum is housed across two historic palazzos and the former headquarters of one of the largest banks in Italian history. If history interests you more, the Leonardo3 Museum is dedicated to the life of Leonardo da Vinci and features working models of his inventions a well as some of his paintings and artworks. For a fun diversion, you can walk for five minutes to see the first Starbucks that opened in Italy in 2018. Even if you prefer an authentic Italian coffee experience, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is worth a visit to gawk at the 30-foot long marble-topped bar and visit the affogato corner where espresso is poured over ice cream.

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: Planning Your Trip