The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a beautiful shopping arcade in Milan near the Duomo, is the oldest shopping mall in Milan and one of the oldest in Europe.
In 1860 the government of Milan held a competition for the redevelopment of the area between the Duomo and the Scala Opera House. The winning design was submitted by Bolognese architect, Giuseppe Mengoni. The first stone of the mall was laid in 1865 by King Victor Emmanuel II, after whom the arcade is named. The Gallerie was opened for business about 2 years later, but work on the structure continued for another decade, especially on the grand entrance from Piazza del Duomo. In a sad note of irony, Mengoni fell to his death from the entrance arcade the day before it was to be officially completed.
The Galleria is a beautiful and elegant five story structure of t-shaped layout, capped with a striking glass and iron roof. The center of the Galleria is a spacious octagonal central piazza. It is decorated with patriotic mosaics and statues. The roof was heavily damaged by bombs in World War II, but has been fully restored.
The Galleria is crowded with people — locals meeting friends, and tourists enjoying the architecture and upscale window displays. There are popular cafes and restaurants in the Galleria, but it seemed to me that most folks just walk through, taking in the views and moving on.
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