- the glass and iron vault
- the floor tiles
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. Housed within a four-story double arcade in central Milan, the Galleria is named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It was designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. The structure consists of two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in an octagon covering the street connecting Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala. The street is covered by an arching glass and cast iron roof, a popular design for 19th-century arcades.
The antique Milanese tradition included the custom of rubbing your foot on the pavement of the Galleria, over the coat of arms (a bull) that represents the city of Turin, on the left-hand side of the octagon. It was said to ward off evil. You had to put your heel on the bull’s balls and spin yourself round. All tourists still do this.
Inside the Galleria, all the commercial activities must display a signboard with gold writing on a black background. The structure of the Galleria is 32 metres high, comprises 353 tons of iron used for the skeleton of the cover, and its octagonal-shaped roof reaches a height of 47 metres. With a keen eye, it is possible to spot what remains of the original illumination installation. There are white spheres on elegant copper mountings, which were once fed by gas.