Where History, Art, and Shopping Converge

Anastasia Isaeva
"In Milan, we spent most of our time inside the grand and magnificent Loggia, or Gallery, or whatever it is called. The buildings, formed by the tall and luxurious new structures [...], this is the Gallery. I would like to live there forever."

— Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad"

How did it all begin? Before 1860, a series of adjacent buildings formed a collection of commercial arcades in the city. The idea of unifying these into a single composition was proposed by the authorities. The first proposal to create a commercial street connecting two squares is attributed to the patriot and writer Carlo Cattaneo in 1839. In 1863, the project by the architect and engineer from Emilia, Giuseppe Mengoni, was approved. The Gallery was named in honor of King Victor Emmanuel II by decision of the authorities. The structure was completed in a record time of three years.
As for the interior, the floor of the Gallery features symbols of Italy’s four "capitals": Milan — the coat of arms with a cross, Turin — a bull, Florence — a lily, and Rome — a she-wolf. Few notice, but right under the dome, one can see images of four women, allegories of the four continents — Europe, America, Asia, and Africa.
Today, the Gallery is not just a historical landmark. It houses 30 boutiques of world-renowned brands, including the first Prada store, which opened in 1913. Besides the throngs of tourists, the Gallery hosts a plethora of high-profile parties and events. Brands often hold their own events, utilizing the space of local cafes and restaurants under the same roof.

A few years ago, during a charity gala dinner celebrating the Gallery's 150th anniversary, the entire Gallery transformed into a grand hall, accommodating over 90 tables and 900 guests.

Special attention is given to the decoration of the Gallery, especially during the Christmas holidays. Each year, a competition is held for the best Christmas tree concept, and on December 7, marking the beginning of the La Scala Theater season, the tree is installed at the heart of the Gallery. In 2023, the Gallery was adorned with a twelve-meter tree covered in over 36,000 lights, created by the Swarovski brand, which was also responsible for the Christmas tree in 2015. The opening ceremony was accompanied by a party and light show, delighting Milanese and visitors alike.

It is worth noting that all shop signs in the Gallery must adhere to strict design guidelines. They are required to have a color scheme with golden letters on a black background. Even global brands like McDonald's are no exception.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is not only a place for shopping and entertainment but also a perfect spot for leisurely strolls, enjoying an aperitif, or a relaxed dinner after an opera. Here, everyone has the chance to make a wish by spinning around on one foot on the symbol of Turin — the mosaic bull. It works, try it yourself.