The “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II”
On 7 March 1865 King Vittorio Emanuele II laid the first stone for the construction of the Gallery in a ceremonial spirit marred only by an unexpected snowfall. The first inhabitant of the Gallery was Gaspare Campari who opened the café Campari: a very classy bar where artists like Giacosa, Puccini, Boito and Tallone used to meet. His son, David was the first baby to be born in the Gallery. Following the grave, the serious bombing of the city of Milan during the 2nd World War, the gallery was badly damaged. Restoration works began in 1953 and the construction firm tried to recreate Mengoni's original project.
The connection road between the Town Hall (Palazzo Marino) and Duomo, which, in a way, represents the intrinsic relationship between the sacred and the profane, was and is still considered as the “Literary, Cultural, Political Salon” of the city. Strolling along this hallowed hall, it is easy to abandon oneself to the contemplation of the ancestral dimension and to become distracted from the tedium of daily routine. It seems to diffuse classic elegance everywhere, time seems to overwhelm any logical frame, colour and sound are softened by mildly glared buildings around.
All of this is ineluctably dominated by the Grand Dome of the “Octagon”, 39 m in diameter and 47 m high, which acts as the main source of daylight in the Galleria. This Octagon, before the ravages of time destroyed them, was embellished with 24 marble statues by the sculptor Magni. They represented famous personalities like Volta, Michelangelo, Galileo, Cavour, and Leonardo Pier Capponi and from their privileged position these intriguing and wary figures were silent witnesses to secret and important meetings that determined the modern history of the city. 4195 squares of marble pieces from Verona and blue lacquers from China make up the pavement of the Gallery.
At the centre of the area, underneath the octagon, a large mosaic represents the coat of arms of the Savoy Family which is encircled by the emblems of the four cities of Milan, Turin, Florence and Rome. Above these dominate four enormous frescoes which depict the four continents of the Earth.