The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele III at Messina was built from 1924 to 1929 by architect Camillo Puglisi Allegra who was inspired by the ornate seventeenth-century Sicilian baroque style which dominates the island, particularly in the Val di Noto area of South Eastern Sicily.
The beautiful Galleria has recently been reopened after many decades of abandonment, and in the evening it becomes a swirling buzz of cafes, bars, pizzerias, restaurants and fast food joints.
But visiting it in the early morning sunlight you really get a sense of the scale, colours and almost religious understanding of this elegant Liberty style structure, so characteristic of the eclectic post-1908 style of Messina.
The Galleria is located on via Cavour and is part of a small cluster of important public buildings who circle the Piazza Antonello square at the entrance to the Galleria.
The circle around the piazza includes the main Post Office of Messina which was designed by architect Vittorio Mariani, il Palazzo della Provincia (or provincial government) built by Alessandro Giunta and the very grand Palazzo del Municipio (town hall of Messina) which is a work of the celebrated architect Antonio Zanca.
In the morning the Galleria is like a stain-glass filled church, the sunshine streams in and there is a peaceful silence which allows you to take in the scope of the place and all of the decorative details.
The balconies which look out from the first floor onto the mosaic details on the expansive floor, the marble details, archways and domed ceilings are simply elegant. The balance of the simple classical elements gives the Galleria a real sense of style without being ostentatious.
It is light filled, breezy, with a wonderful well rounded sounding acoustics which I think would be perfect for chamber music, opera, choral music and other such refined performances which often find it difficult to find a performance space outside of the theatre.
And who would not pay good money to stay in an apartment or B&B directly over such a picturesque place?
The Galleria seems to be empty, making it a home for Messina’s Burger King is a waste. The large elegant space has the potential to a focus of ongoing events and vibrant economic activities. If marketing is done the right way this venue could be the focal point of cafes, markets, local brands, offices and many other sources of entertainment.
Rather than lying half asleep in the late morning it should be bustling with people. The Galleria deserves to be filled with families, locals and tourists visiting and marvelling over this beautiful attraction, similar to other Galleria’s at Naples and Milan.