10 Great Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Facts

One of the most marvelous landmarks in Milan is the oldest active shopping mall in Italy.

In this post, you’ll discover the most fun and interesting facts about the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a must-see attraction if you plan to visit the second-largest city in the country.

1. It’s located right next to the most famous landmark in Milan

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the most remarkable landmarks in the city of Milan. It’s located right next to the Piazza del Duomo, the magnificent square that is home to Milan Cathedral, one of the most astounding churches in the world.

This means that it’s located right in the historical heart of the city because Milan was pretty much built around its glorious cathedral.

But that’s not all! On the other side of the Galleria, facing its north façade is the “Piazza della Scala.” Here we can find another amazing landmark in Milan called the “Teatro alla Scala,” one of the most famous opera houses in the world.

Galleria Milan Duomo Milan
Entrance and Milan Cathedral / Kuhnmi / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

2. The main entrance of the gallery is a monument in itself

The main entrance is located on the Piazza del Duomo and takes the same of a monumental arch. The scale of this magnificent triumphal arch entrance would easily turn this into one of the most famous landmarks in the city by itself.

The arch has a width of 14.5 meters (47.57 feet) and reaches a total height of 38.5 meters (126.31 feet). The Galleria itself consists of 4 floors and a double arcade.

Galleria Milan entrance arch
Entrance arch / FRS Milan / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

3. It was named after an important man in Italy’s history

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was named after Victor Emmanuel II (1820-1878), the man who became the first king of a reunified Italy on March 17, 1861.

He was the first king to reign over all of Italy since the 6th century as well, making him a pretty important figure in the country’s history. He even gave himself the title of “Pater Patriae,” or “Father of the Fatherland,” just as the Roman Emperors did before him in ancient Rome.

VIctor Emanuel II
Victor Emanuel II / Wiki Commons

4. The amazing gallery was completed in the 1870s

The magnificent design of the shopping arcade was completed in the year 1861 by the hand of an Italian architect named Giuseppe Mengoni (1829-1877).

The cornerstone wasn’t laid until 4 years later, though, as the structure was completed between 1865 and 1877. This means that the King of Italy managed to see the completed building that was named in his honor.

The Galleria in Milan under construction
The Galleria in Milan under construction / Wiki Commons

5. It has the shape of a cross with a glass dome in the center

The Galleria has the shape of a cross and consists of 2 four-story arcades. The north-south arcade is the longest of the two and they are both covered by an arching glass and cast-iron roof.

The two arcades meet in a large octagonal space that is covered by a magnificent dome. This enormous structure is supported by four barrel vaults which are each 14.5 meters (47.57 feet) in width and 8.5 meters (27.88 feet) in height.

The dome is the centerpiece of the entire shopping arcade and has a total diameter of 37.5 meters (123.03 feet) and a height of 17.10 meters (56.10 feet). This breathtaking structure literally makes you stand in awe, that’s for sure!

Milan Galleria corridor and dome
Corridor and dome / Wolfgang Weber / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

6. The central octagonal features the coats of arms of 4 Italian cities

If you manage to take your eye off the amazing dome in the central octagonal space of the Galleria and take a look at the floor, you’ll see the coats of arms of 4 different Italian cities.

These are the coats of arms of Turin, Florence, and Rome, the 3 capitals of the Kingdom of Italy. Obviously, the coat of arms of the city of Milan is included as well.

If you take a closer look at the coat of arms of Turin, you’ll see a bull with damaged testicles. That’s because it’s assumed that spinning 3 times on this exact spot brings good luck. This has resulted in the bull’s testicles literally being busted from all the people spinning on it!

Bulls balls galleria milan
This is what happens to the bull / Luca Vanzella / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

7. It wasn’t the first glass-vaulted shopping arcade in Europe

One of the most amazing facts about the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is that it was far from being the first glass-vaulted shopping arcade in Europe, but it eventually became the most impressive one.

Granted, long before, the Romans also built shopping arcades such as Trajan’s Market in Rome, but the first arcade with iron-and-glass roofs was built in London in the year 1819.

The Burlington Arcade was the prototype for larger similar structures in cities all across Europe, including:

  • The Saint-Hubert Gallery in Brussels (1847).
  • The Passage in St Petersburg (1848).
  • The Galleria Umberto I in Naples (1890).
Burlington Arcade
Burlington Arcade / Andrew Dunn / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

8. The roof of the building was completely restored following WWII

It’s hard to imagine how the glass roof of the building could come out of World War II unscathed, and that didn’t happen. The roof was pretty much destroyed during the war and completely restored shortly after.

The roof underwent multiple renovations as well following this reconstruction, including a massive project in the 1980s. Both the roof and exterior of the Galleria were completely restored to get it back into excellent shape for the “Expo Milano 2015.

Galleria Milan Roof detail
Detail of the roof of the Galleria / Marco Pagani / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

9. The Galleria is a popular meeting place for the people of Milan

If you think that the cafes and restaurants located within the Galleria are solely occupied by tourists then that’s not correct. The people living in Milan see it as an important meeting and dining place in their city as well.

That’s why the Galleria is locally often referred to as “il salotto di Milano,” which translates to “Milan’s drawing-room.”

Apart from the bars, cafes, and restaurants, the Galleria is also home to high-end and luxurious shopping retailers such as Prada, Borsalino, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc. (you get the idea).

Inside the Milano Galleria
View inside the Galleria / Pixabay

10. McDonald’s hasn’t been welcome here since 2012

One of the most remarkable events in the recent history of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is that the popular fast-food chain McDonald’s was refused an extension on their lease in 2012.

They had been renting a place in the Galleria for 20 years before, but this location eventually got occupied by a second Prada store. McDonald’s ended up suing the city of Milan for €20 million but eventually managed to agree to a settlement when they were offered another space just east of the shopping arcade.

This clearly emphasizes the direction that the government of the city of Milan wants to go into with the amazing shopping arcade in the heart of their city. After all, Milan is the fashion capital of the world, right?

The amazing Galleria in Milan
The amazing Galleria in Milan / Paul Bica / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/