Whether you are passing through, shopping or stopping for an aperitivo, spending some time inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a must when visiting Milan. Here are ten facts to enrich your experience and welcome you to the city’s living-room.1. The gallery is named after the first king of Italy, who wanted to modernise the historic centre of Milan in the 1860s in celebration of the recent unification.
2. King Vittorio Emanuele II is said to have laid the first stone of the gallery himself in 1865, inaugurating the building's construction.
3. Ideas for the gallery’s architectural style were gathered in three contests. In 1863, a project by Giuseppe Mengoni was chosen as the most pragmatic and elegant. From then on Mengoni supervised the works of hundreds of men involved in the construction of the gallery until the day it was completed.4. The inauguration of the gallery took place in 1877 when the entrance arch was completed. But that day was also marked by a shock: hours before the grand opening, Mengoni was found dead inside the gallery. Some say that he fell from a scaffold while working until the last minute before the inauguration but most contend that the cause of his death remains a mystery.
5. The gallery is considered one of the oldest shopping malls in the world. Immediately after its inauguration, Milan's elite class started frequenting it to socialise and shop.
6. Due to the gallery's popularity as a meeting point in the city centre, for over a century it has been referred to endearingly as il salotto di Milano, the living-room of Milan.
7. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a reference of elegance. In order to maintain its visual identity, all establishments inside it must follow certain rules, such as stylising their brand into a pattern of golden letters on a black background.8. It was inside this gallery that Prada was born as a luggage shop called Fratelli Prada, and the original shop is still there.
9. The gallery is four storeys tall and its structure is made of marble, iron and glass. It is composed of four corridors laid out in a cross-shape, with a glass dome at the centre. The two longer corridors double up as a passageway between the Duomo and La Scala Theatre.10. In the centre of the gallery’s floor mosaic artwork pays homage to Rome, Turin, Florence and Milan. Out of these four coats of arms depicted, Turin’s symbol of the bull receives the most daily attention. According to local tradition, spinning counterclockwise three times while maintaining the heel firmly placed over the bull’s testicles brings good luck and wards off evil. This tradition started as a mockery game played by the Milanese against the rival city of Turin. Nowadays the tradition is gaining a double meaning: the promise of returning, for tourists who wish to visit Milan again. Worth a try, isn’t it?