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The Galleria has become the much-loved hub of Milan once again. The reason? The historical premises and new restaurants have brought the nightlife right into the city centre
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele turned 150 in 2017 (it opened in 1867) and it is young as ever. The “central hub of the Milanese” as it is called, has always been a source of pride for the city. Refined shops, historic restaurants, cafés: it was once the meeting place of the Milanese bourgeoisie, an innovative shopping mall and an example of late 19th-century architecture. What you don’t know is that over the last thirty years, it went through a dark period, where chic boutiques had to give way to the glittering shop windows of the fashion houses, where fast food restaurants were everywhere and apart from tourists, it was just a waypoint – certainly not a cosy hub to stop and enjoy life.
Then, in recent years, a small miracle happened and the Galleria was brought back to the Milanese, aiming high and at a new and more practical concept of luxury. Historic bars are serving cocktails mixed by great bartenders, chef Carlo Cracco has opened a restaurant with a café, the Vun by Andrea Aprea has gained two Michelin stars, the Observatory of Fondazione Prada hosts exhibitions and there are two restaurants with a view on the Duomo, serving excellent food. Around it, new bars and restaurants opened and in the evening the city centre is lively with tourists, who since the Expo 2015 have finally found some more interesting spots than the usual tourist traps, and locals who have finally found a reason to go to the centre. Here are some tips.
They are part of the true history of Milan, featuring period furnishings and, until recently, an old-fashioned style. In the Galleria, both Camparino and Café Savini are part of the Association of Historical Places in Italy and have been there since the opening of the Galleria in 1867.
Camparino is a trademark of Milan just like Campari and it was the seat of the production of the world’s most famous bitter red. Still tied to the Campari brand, the bar sees two champions of mixology behind the counter: Tommaso Cecca and Mattia Pastori, two young bartenders who focused on the renewal of this corner of Milan. Ask for a shaken drink – a true classic.
Savini was the restaurant where performers and composers of La Scala gathered after the theatre and at whose tables politicians and entrepreneurs sat for over a century. Today, with the renovation of the Galleria, Savini has improved, becoming the place of Milan today. At the café on the ground floor, a new cocktail menu has restored the aperitif time and the afternoon tea remains a tradition, while the Savini Restaurant on the 1st floor offers “contemporary Milanese cuisine” by young chef Giovanni Bon. Book table 7, overlooking the splendid frescoes and refined mosaic floors of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
The Park Hyatt in Milan has always been one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, but in addition to welcoming tourists and businessmen, it is much loved by the Milanese for its restaurant, the two-Michelin star chef Andrea Aprea’s VUN, and the MIO bar, with tables overlooking the Galleria. At the restaurant, you can eat Italian haute cuisine with a southern imprint and Mediterranean flavours – pleasant and with a service among the best in Italy. At the bar, the new cocktail menu is inspired by Tarot cards and thus, beyond the classics, you can order a Priestess or a Hanged Man, by choosing from the list or sniffing the ampoules recalling the scents of the cocktails.
Carlo Cracco is Italy’s most famous chef; he is handsome, talented and became known to the general public thanks to MasterChef. He is not very famous abroad, but in Italy, he is a real celebrity. In 2018, he opened his new restaurant. A bistro and café with outdoor seating under the glass and steel archway of the Galleria, and starred restaurant upstairs. Great croissants, pizza served at the Bistro (just don’t imagine a traditional one), haute cuisine with a tasting menu at the restaurant – if you can, book the corner table for two with a view.
Prada, one of the city’s historic fashion houses and present in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele since its first collection in 1913. In addition to the boutique, the Pasticceria Marchesi is part of the Prada group, on the first floor overlooking the Central Octagon, and the Observatory of the Fondazione Prada, above, is a space that hosts temporary exhibitions of photography that explore contemporary trends and the constant evolution of the medium and its connections to other disciplines and creative realities. Housed on the fifth and sixth floor of one of the central buildings, the Observatory is located above the Octagon, in a scenic space at the same level of the glass and iron dome.