Any Milan travel guide book will tell you that you have to see the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and I agree whole-heartedly. Even if the stores inside are out of your budget, this late-nineteenth century shopping arcade is well worth passing through. With a nickname like “il salotto di Milano” (Milan’s living room), how could you not?
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has four entrances, the busiest being the entrances from Piazza del Duomo and Piazza La Scala, and there’s a chance it will be packed with people but just stroll, enjoy and try not to let the crowds or selfie-stick toting tourists get under your skin. It’s home to Prada, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, Rizzoli and several other shops and while most of the restaurants are “historic” they suffer from putting out quantity over quality as most of their patrons are foot traffic from tourists passing through the historic center.
However, here are some fun facts to keep in mind for when you visit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II during your Milan visit.
- It was designed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni and built between 1865 and 1877. He very tragically died after falling off a scaffolding on December 30 1877, the day the entrance arch was completed and the day prior to its inauguration.
- Beneath the center dome there are four coats of arms of Italy’s capital cities: Rome, Florence and Turin, and one of Milan (because we are in Milan after all). The Bull of Turin is the most popular…you might notice a group of people surrounding it, taking turns spinning and having their picture taken. It’s believed if you spin on the bull’s testicle, you’ll get good luck. You place your right heel firmly on the spot (it’s very worn so you won’t have any problems finding it) and spin counter clockwise three times.
- Prada was born here in 1913! Just next to the Prada woman’s store (on the leg that stretches from the dome to Piazza della Scala), is the original Prada store: it says “Fratelli Prada Valigeria” (as it originated as a luggage company. The original mahogany shelves are still in place here displaying a number of fine accessories.
- That’s not all…in 2013, the Galleria decided to boot out McDonald’s and Prada won a bid for its space. So, diagonally across from the womenswear store, a menswear store opened in 2013. Jsut his year, a third outpost of Pasticceria Marchesi opened on the second floor and apparently a gallery/events space is next to come.
- All the store signs inside the Galleria are legally required to be black with gold writing.
- Every Christmas, they put up a gorgeous tree inside (in addition to the one in Piazza del Duomo) and adorn the glass dome with blue lights.
- Camparino opened in 1915 by Campari (yes, of the Campari liqueur) and has an exquisite Old World, Belle Epoque feel. But it’s expensive. It can cost you upwards of 12 euro per person for a drink to sit outside. But if you want to check the place, go to the bar to sample the Zucca cocktail which is less than 5 euro. A refreshing bitter concoction made with rhubarb liqueur, herbs and soda, and is named for the shop’s former proprietors. No there is no “pumpkin” or “squash” despite its name, it’s a rhubarb flavored aperitif and the venue switched owners jumping back and forth between Camapri and Zucca over the years.
- Brilliantly talented 27-year-old chef Matteo Torretta of Asola (who is the first runner up on the Top Chef Italia season that just concluded) has just been entrusted with re-launching Savini so I’m excited to see what he has up his sleeve.