Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: It’s in the details

It is one of the most visited tourist attractions and one which the Milanese are also very attached to. But how much do we actually know about this precious gem of Milan? There are so many interesting and special facts that often go completely unrealised. So, we have decided to fix this and tell you about them!

Built in 1865 by Giuseppe Mengoni, did you know that the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II can be considered one of the world's first examples of a shopping center? The construction of the Gallery had begun because the goal was to connect the Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala through a covered passage.

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Slowly the first shops began to be built and the upper class began to consider it as a meeting place. Then, like now, it was full of shops, restaurants and cafes, ideal for getting together and spending time together. There are some original shops and cafes that still exist today, for example the Caffè Campari, the Caffè Savini and the Caffè Biffi.

Whilst looking up and admiring the central dome, have you ever noticed the mosaics surrounding it? These mosaics actually depict Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas! Full of details referencing each continent and beautiful decorations… you need to be up close to really appreciate the craftsmanship and details, but even now just understanding their history you see them in a whole new light.

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In every corner of the Gallery there are beautiful details and decorations - even on the floor! We often tend not to pay too much attention to where we walk, but right here we have a mosaic that presents the heraldic symbol of the Savoy with the emblems of four cities: Milan, Turin, Florence and Rome!

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Need some luck? Here in the Gallery you might find some! It is said that if you turn three times with the right heel on the "bull's balls" (one of the mosaics on the floor) it will bring you good luck! Never hurts to try…!

Do you know that a part of the Gallery was the protagonist of a work of art? Yes, some women were portrayed in front of the historic Caffè Camparino during a brawl in the Gallery which then gave its name to Umberto Boccioni's painting!

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Now the time has come to learn a little Milanese dialect ...There is a very sweet and odd term: "rattin" which means little mouse. You must be wondering what connection this has to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II ... well the "rattin" was a small locomotive that was used to light the lamps inside, when there was still no electric lighting in 1883 and everything had to be done manually, switched on one by one!

There are a million things to say about the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, but we have done our best to tell you funny and artistic anecdotes and curiosities and we hope you leave knowing something new!

Scritto da Daisy Spanton