Milan’s Galleria, Spectacular Architecture and Upscale Shops

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Milan has a wonderful shopping arcade just across the piazza from its famous Duomo. This five-story glass-ceilinged building is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and a must-see for anyone traveling to Milan.

This arcade has the distinction of being the oldest shopping mall on the world, and is named after one of Italy's most famous kings, King Victor Emanuele II. In fact he actually laid the first stone of this galleria in 1865. The arcade was built to connect the large Piazza del Duomo with Piazza della Scala where the opera house, La Scala is located.Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milans Galleria, Italy

Mosaic Bull, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan GalleriaTwo years later in 1867 the galleria opened but was not completed for another ten years. This beautiful example of architecture is one of Milan's most popular meeting spots. Its facade facing Piazza del Duomo is framed with a triumphal arch. The interior is shaped like a Latin cross with one walkway 643 feet long and the other 346 feet across. Both walkways are covered with impressive glass and iron arched ceilings which meet at an octagonal center point. This central dome 154 feet high and 118 feet wide and it truly is beautiful.

On the floor in the center of the galleria is a mosaic bull, and tradition maintains that anyone who steps on the bull's genitals, and twirls around three times, will have good fortune. My Italian friend Angela who accompanied me the first time I visited this galleria assures me that this is true, and insisted that I participate in the ritual, as she was ready with her camera. Naturally I had to do it while bystanders looked on, waiting their turn to do the same.  The area is question was so worn from people performing this ritual that there was a hole in the floor. Periodically this has to be renovated with new mosaics.Spectacular Architecture, Milan's Galleria

Aside from the spectacular architecture, the galleria features some of Milan's more upscale shops and restaurants. To name a few that grace these halls are Prada, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Bernasconi, and Rizzoli Bookstore. Until recently McDonald's was also inside the galleria, which may seem unusual, but it had been there for twenty years. Their lease was not renewed this year and McDonald's no longer is inside Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

Some of the famous restaurants and cafès in the galleria are the Savini Restaurant, Biffi Caffè, and Zucca's Bar. You may pay ten euros for a cup of cappuccino but you are in Milan's Galleria after all. Enjoy the ambience and splurge.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Milan’s Sforzesco Castle

Milan's Sforzesco Castle, ItalyGuest Post By: Margie Miklas

Milan is not so much a tourist city in Italy but travelers do visit here and the main attractions are the Duomo, the Galleria and La Scala. Maybe the Fashion District is on their list too but for me, one of the lesser known but interesting places to see in Milan is the Sforzesco Castle or Castello Sforzesco.


Not located near the Duomo or Fashion District, the Sforzesco Castle is just a Metro ride away on the MM1 line at the Cairoli – Castello station.  This 14th century historic monument in Milan was once the residence of the Sforza-Visconti ruling families of Milan. Later the Austrian governor called it home when the region of Lombardy belonged to the Hapsburg empire. Today this fortress is the home to several museums. The Sforzesco Castle has been demolished, rebuilt and restored several times and has been open to the public since 1900. Today it commands the attention of crowds because of its history and various museums housed within its walls.


Sforzesco Castle Filarete TowerInside the castle are 12 mini museums, called the Musei Civici, and they occupy space on several floors. The exhibits include ancient archeological artifacts, ancient art sculptures including one unfinished by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Trivulzianus manuscript, furniture and Italian paintings. Other exhibits feature musical instruments such as a harpsichord dating back to the 16th century. Tapestries and objects in gold, silver and other metals are also on display in these museums.


Sforzesco Castle is laid out in a square and has three inner courtyards and numerous towers. In the front there are two round towers and in the rear two square towers. The round towers are 102 feet tall and have names: Torre Castellana and Torre Falcioniera.

As I passed through the main entrance I actually am walking right through the tallest tower named Torre del Filarete, which is 230 feet tall. Passing through this tower this takes me to the main large courtyard, which is so big it is considered to be a piazza and is named Piazza d’Armi.  From the courtyard I am able to see another tower, this one being Torre di Bona Savoia.

Sforzesco Castle Main entrance, ItalyHours and Fees

The Sforzesca Castle is to the public open every day of the year from 7am to 6pm and from 7am to 7pm in the summer. There is no admission to enter the castle grounds but nominal fees are charged to visit the museums. The museums are open from 9-5:30Tuesday through Sunday and the admission fee is only three euros and free for anyone age 25 or younger.

There are other discounts available for students and seniors and on certain days at certain hours the entrance to these museums is free. The free times include Fridays from 2-5:30, weekends and from 4:30 to 5:30 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

I didn’t even know Milan had a castle until my Italian friend accompanied me there. If you are looking for something different in Milan, spend a few hours at the Sforzesco Castle.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas Follow Margie on her blog at

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