I have passed by the upscale stores in the Galleria on numerous occasions and not stepped inside any of them. Not even once. I do, however, have a deep love for this building that is essentially one of the world’s first shopping malls.
I have seen it from numerous vantage points, most recently from above as Gary and I walked the catwalks on the roof. I was supposed to be up there to enjoy the view of the Duomo and the city of Milan, but my attention was still drawn to the rooms topped by glass domes beneath my feet and the delicate-looking ironwork holding them in place.
That this ornate covered passage connecting the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza della Scala was built in just two and a half years, opening in 1867, is nothing less than astonishing.
Every piece of art, from the intricate floor to the four lunettes high above the central octagon tells a story of Milan, the Venetians, and even the world.
We were lucky enough to see the Galleria during the restoration process that took place in 2014 and 2015, cleaning and repairing every part of the space. Most of the work took place at night, with enormous, specially-built scaffolding moving through the Galleria foot by foot. During our most recent visit, after our tour of the catwalks, we walked the floor, admiring the completed restoration, and taking note of new businesses and attractions either already opened or coming soon to the city’s most famous venue. We smiled at clusters of school children on pre-holiday field trips, holding hands in pairs, barely listening to teachers explaining this or that piece of art high above them.
We retired for the night content that we had returned to this piece of Italy that somehow holds us captivated. Jetlag and love of adventure have a funny way of altering plans during the first days of an overseas journey, so it was really no surprise when Gary and I found ourselves awake at 2 am. There was no question about what we should do. Like teenagers sneaking out of the house, we dressed quietly. Camera gear was all we needed.
We were never alone inside the Galleria. There was another photographer, two couples who sat cross-legged on the floor in the center octagon for a bit, an occasional group of workers stumbling through after completing their shifts somewhere in the City Center, and the floor sweeping man driving his miniature Zamboni-like machine in swishing turns around the quiet space.
Compared to the cacophony of sounds that echoes through the building most any other time of day or evening, the silence was magical, as was the light.