Milan’s most elegant shopping arcade links the Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala, site of the famous opera house. The gallery is entered through an enormous Neo-Classical triumphal archway leading to a shopping mall blessed with ornate marble flooring and a massive octagonal glass dome. Inside, the arcade is lined with genteel grand cafes such as Zucca, Biffi, and Il Savini, where the local elite gather to dine after a night at the opera. The designer stores currently include Gucci, Swarovski, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Tod’s.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II was the masterpiece of Bolognese architect Giuseppe Mengoni, designed in the 1870s to mark the unification of Italy under King Vittorio Emanuele II; the mosaic and fresco decorations incorporate patriotic symbols and coats of arms of various Italian cities. Unfortunately Mengoni never saw his magnus opus flourishing as he died in a fall from scaffolding the day before it opened in 1878. Today giggling crowds gather under the soaring central dome to dance on the private parts of the little mosaic bull in the floor; legend dictates it’s a short cut to a lifetime of happiness.