The Victor Emmanuel II gallery, between a chic salon and an (almost) open-air passageway!

In the heart of Milan, an arch located near the Duomo cathedral welcomes millions of visitors every year. At first glance, it could almost be mistaken for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. And yet here we are in Milan, facing the Galleria Victor Emmanuel II. A subtle blend of a glass roof, a busy street and a chic shopping centre, it impresses with its grandeur and richness. Built in an international context, where the monumentalism of London or Paris was the model to follow, the gallery remains a focal point for Milanese and visitors alike, and a prestigious address for luxury shopping. It is an emblematic monument that plays an active part in the reputation of the Lombard city. Mosaics, modillions and caryatids adorn the building. It is one of the most scenic covered passageways, with exemplary architecture.

Interior of the Galleria Victor Emmanuel II in Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Lombardy, Italy.

- © Viacheslav Lopatin / Shutterstock

A grandiose monument

This shopping mall is unlike any other. A true nineteenth-century historical legacy, it features a neoclassical style influenced by Milanese Baroque. A link between Piazza del Duomo and La Scala, its layout has earned it the nickname "Milan's drawing room". It owes its nobility to the "Father of the Fatherland", King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.

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Built between 1865 and 1877 to plans by the architect Giuseppe Mangoni, the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery was part of a vast project to modernise the centre of Milan, accompanying the opening up of the cathedral square onto which it leads. In particular, it links the Duomo to the La Scala theatre. This type of passageway appeared towards the very end of the 18th century in many Parisian streets, such as the Passage des Panoramas, one of the best known. Under the high glass roof, two monumental galleries intersect, forming an octagon where they meet.

Close-up of the interior of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan, Lombardy, Italy.

- © Giama22 / Shutterstock

A richly decorated interior

Inside, in an eclectic baroco-neoclassical style typical of city buildings of the period and very Milanese in its style, there are statues by the sculptor Pietro Magni, allegories of the four continents in the lunettes around the heart of the building and on the floor, under the central octagon, the coat of arms of the House of Savoy of Victor Emmanuel II, the unifier of Italy. Around it, four mosaics represent the four historic capitals of Italy: Milan (under Napoleon), then Turin, Florence and Rome.

People visiting the Victor Emmanuel II Gallery in the center of Milan, Lombardy, Italy.

- © Viacheslav Lopatin / Shutterstock

To the left of the gallery entrance, on the Place de la Cathédrale side, at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, the Campari bar has been open since 1915. This is where the great history of the aperitif, as a drink and a moment of conviviality, began. Today, the gallery is also home to the big names in Italian and French luxury, as well as sumptuous hotels.

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Galleria Vik Milano

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A veritable cabinet of curiosities

When you look at the signs of luxury boutiques, you realise that they all have one thing in common: gold lettering. They all have to respect this golden rule, without exception. A few metres higher up, light floods into the mall thanks to a roof made of glass and a metal structure that has inspired many a walkway in Italy, such as the Umberto Gallery in Naples, but also internationally, such as the Eaton Centre in Canada. The roof, which covers the mall, provides pleasant natural lighting and, above all, an unobstructed view of Milan's coveted blue sky.

View of the glass roof of the Galleria Victor Emmanuel II, Milan, Lombardy, Italy.

- © qVista / Shutterstock

Three little turns and then they're gone...

The gallery is not only a mythical place, it is also known for a superstition that extends far beyond Italy's borders. One of the mosaics depicts a bull on which you must place your right heel and turn three times. Initially, this was simply a mockery of the city of Turin, whose symbol the bull represents, before becoming a very popular tradition. Today, visitors flock to the bull, and there is a small queue. It's not very difficult to find, just look for a gathering of people. But here's a tip for enjoying the place without the tourists: go early in the morning!

A man turning on the bull's attributes, mosaic in the Victor Emmanuel II Gallery in Milan, Lombardy, Italy.

- © Giama22 / Shutterstock

Luxury boutiques

The magnificent gallery is home to some of the world's most prestigious brands. Dior, Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Versace are just some of the brands lucky enough to exhibit in this prestigious venue. Even if you don't have the bank account to buy from these sumptuous boutiques, it's always a pleasure to admire the pretty windows showcasing the shops' products from every angle.

Cafés and restaurants

As well as the glitz and glamour of the haute couture shops, there are some lovely places to enjoy a drink or a local speciality on the terrace. More of a sweet tooth? We recommend the Marchesi patisserie, which makes delicious treats. Alternatively, nibble on a savoury snack at Granaio, a troquet serving traditional cuisine straight out of the Nonna's recipe book.

And even a museum!

Even more surprising, the passageway houses a museum dedicated to the Renaissance and the famous Leonardo da Vinci. There are several in the city, but this is undoubtedly the most interesting. More than 200 creations are on display, and the visit goes even further as you can take part in a workshop to reproduce one of them.

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Practical information

📍 Address: Piazza del Duomo, Milan (20123)

🚌 Transport: M1 line, "Duomo" stop

👉 Don't miss:

  • La Scala theatre
  • Milan Cathedral (Duomo)
  • Duomo piazza
  • Piazza Mercanti
by Editorial Team
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