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, such as the Burlington Arcade in London, which was the prototype for larger glazed shopping arcades, beginning with the Saint-Hubert Gallery in Brussels, the Passazh in St Petersburg, the Galleria Umberto I in Naples and the Budapest Galleria.
The central octagonal space is topped with a glass dome. The Milanese Galleria was larger in scale than its predecessors and was an important step in the evolution of the modern glazed and enclosed shopping mall, of which it was the direct progenitor. It has inspired the use of the term galleria for many other shopping arcades and malls.
On the ground of the central octagonal, there are four mosaics portraying the Coat of Arms of the three Capitals of the Kingdom of Italy (Turin, Florence and Rome) plus the Milan's. The tradition tells that if a person put its right heel on the bull's genitals depicted of the bull from Turin Coat of Arms and turn on himself three times, this will bring good luck. This practice causes damage to the mosaic: a hole developed on the place of the bull's genitals.
The Galleria is often nicknamed il salotto di Milano (Milan's drawing room), due to its numerous shops and importance as a common Milanese meeting and dining place. As of 2013, the arcade principally contains luxury retailers selling haute couture, jewelry, books and paintings, as well as restaurants, caf¨¦s, and bars.
The Galleria is famous for being home to some of the oldest shops and restaurants in Milan, such as Biffi Caffe (founded in 1867 by Paolo Biffi, pastry chef to the monarch), the Savini restaurant, the silverware store Bernasconi and the Art Nouveau classic Zucca's Bar.