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One of the first stops of every trip to Milan is the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery, the city's living room, symbol of the "Milanese style": an elegant meeting point near the Duomo and the luxury B & B Secondo Pensiero. On the eve of the Unification of Italy, Milan was resurrecting both economically and culturally, but Piazza Duomo, with its irregular layout and the space in front of the cathedral occupied by medieval buildings, was not keeping pace with growth.
In 1859 King Vittorio Emanuele II started a lottery whose revenues would be used to finance the modernization of the Square. But the attempt failed and then the city hall of Milan organized competitions to collect projects and reward the best. Giuseppe Mengoni’s idea, praised for concreteness and elegance, resulted as the best one. Two years later, the king laid the first stone at the centre of what would become the Gallery's octagon.
About 1,000 people were involved in the project: masons, blacksmiths and glassmakers, supervised by Mengoni. The works did not last long and within two years the Gallery was completed. The entrance arch was finished in December 1867.
Built with a reticular structure in iron and glass, it is a covered pedestrian street, an elegant shopping centre. Decorated pendentives form a connection between the arches of the galleries and the ring of the dome tax. Four blocks mark the height of the gallery arms. The perimeter walls are covered with stylistic decorations with telamons and caryatids of nineteenth-century taste, graffiti and stuccoes in imitation of marble. Some allegorical representations complete the decoration on the lunettes.
In a short time elegant men and women of the Milano bene strolled on the mosaic floor and stopped at the Caffè Biffi to sip fine drinks. Despite the consolidation of other equally elegant streets, the Gallery remained a focal point of the Milanese upper class. The success was due to its central position, the many bistros and ateliers that occupied the spaces and the proximity to luxury hotels. Over the years the Gallery has remained a meeting place for Milanese and tourists and recently the walk on its roofs was inaugurated.
After the visit you can soon take a rest in your luxury b&b.
Atmosphere and flavours to experience nature in the heart of Milan. Treat yourself to Officinali Montauto's bistrò and store, right here at Secondo Pensiero. Click here to see the menu.