Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
For a spot of luxury shopping during your Italy vacation in the fashionable city of Milan, look out for the glass-roofed arcade near the Duomo: the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II isn’t known as il salotto di Milano (Milan’s living room) for nothing. It connects piazza del Duomo with piazza della Scala in grand style, and the upper echelons of Milan society all pass through at some point. Suited businessmen will happily pay €10 for a cappuccino on the terrace at Zucca, and elegant grandmothers carry their chihuahuas in Fendi bags. Shopping is, and always has been, the Galleria’s main activity, and fashion flagships radiate out from the twin powerhouses of Prada and Louis Vuitton in the centre.
The Galleria’s designer, Giuseppe Mengoni, pioneered its complex marriage of iron and glass 20 years before the Eiffel Tower was built. The Galleria was officially opened in 1867 by Vittorio Emanuele II, king of a newly united Italy; but, in a sour twist of fate, Mengoni wasn’t present, having fallen to his death from his own creation a few days earlier.
The ceiling vaults are decorated with mosaics representing Asia, Africa, Europe and America. At ground level are mosaics of more local concerns: the coats of arms of Vittorio Emanuele’s Savoia family, and the symbols of Milan (a red cross on a white field), Rome (a she-wolf), Florence (an iris) and Turin (a bull). If you can’t see Turin’s symbol, look out for the tourists spinning on their heels on the bull’s privates – it’s said to guarantee good luck.