The gallery is one of the oldest shopping malls in Italy and one of the most famous landmarks of Milan. Since its inauguration in the 19th century, due to the presence of elegant shops and cafés, the gallery became the meeting place of the Milanese bourgeoisie, being known as the living room of Milan.
The idea of a street that connected Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Scala was first promoted in 1839 by the writer Carlo Cattaneo, as a solution for the area in front of the Milan Cathedral.
In 1863, the Municipality of Milan announced a competition for the new street project. The winner was the project of the architect Giuseppe Mengoni, for a cross-shaped gallery and a porticoed building in Piazza del Duomo.
The ceremony for the laying of the first stone by King Vittorio Emanuele II took place on March 7, 1865. The works, excluding the triumphal entry arch, were completed in less than three years. The gallery was finished only ten years later, in 1878, when the entrance arch and the porticoes of Piazza del Duomo were completed.
During the Second World War, the gallery was affected by the Allied raids. The bombings that occurred on 15 and 16 August 1943 destroyed the glass cover and part of the metal roof, damaging also the interior decorations. The reconstruction works began in 1948 and were completed in 1955.
Between March 2014 and April 2015, the gallery was subjected to the most profound restoration since the Second World War, for the Expo 2015. The restoration brought the plasterwork of the gallery back to its original colors.
The structure of the gallery is formed by two crossed arcades. The largest, which connects Piazza della Scala to Piazza del Duomo, is 196 meters long, while the other, which connects Via Foscolo to Via Pellico, is 105 meters long. The internal facades, set on three floors plus a mezzanine, were decorated in Lombard Renaissance style.
At the intersection of the arcades is a space called the octagon, surmounted by a dome. The octagon, whose opposite sides are 36 meters apart, has wall decorations with caryatids, telamons and stuccoes.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest Metro station is Duomo, on the Metro Line M1, which has some exits right in front of the gallery. The closest tram stop is in Via Grossi, on the tram Line 1, located about 50 meters away.