This remarkable building of white Brescian marble has several names – Il Vittoriano, Victor Emmanuel II Monument, Altare della Patria as well as some not so complimentary nicknames – “Wedding Cake”, “the Dentures” and “Typewriter”. Love it or loathe it (as many Romans do) the building is impossible to ignore.
Construction of the monument was started in 1895 and it was inaugurated in 1911. It was built in honour of Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, the first king of a unified Italy. The large gilt bronze equestrian statue depicts the king. The statue which took 20 years to complete was created by the sculptor Enrico Chiaradia.
The two statues on the top of the building are of the goddess Victoria.
The edifice contains the Museum of the Risorgimento, the events that led up to the unification in 1861. The building also provides the setting for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The dramatic setting for the eternal flame always has two soldiers guarding it. The guards change late in the morning with a small ceremony.
The Vittoriano focuses on the unification of Italy. Therefore, it is considered one of Italy’s national symbols. Every year it hosts important national celebrations such as Liberation Day and Republic Day.
The monument occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill, the symbolic centre of ancient Rome. Piazza Venezia is busy and filled with traffic and a number of bus routes pass through the square. Directly opposite the monument is the Via del Corso, now Rome’s busiest shopping street. This runs from Piazza Venezia all the way to Piazza del Popolo. It’s within easy walking distance of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum which is where the nearest Metro stop is located.
The Main Parts of the Building
The large staircase at the front of the monument is the entrance which leads to the various parts of the building. There is a fountain on each side. These are symbolic of Italy’s natural sea borders – the Adriatic Sea in the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west.
At the top of the staircase in the centre is the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Above the Monument is the Statue of Goddess Rome.
In the centre of the structure is a large podium that supports the equestrian statue of King Vittorio Emanuele II.
The next level up is the colonnade with its 16 columns. Further up on the left is the Terrazza Italia. This overlooks the Roman Forum, with the Colosseum in the background. There is a cafe here selling light snacks. From here it is possible to climb even further via a glass lift. This goes up to the roof terrace.
Il Vittoriano Roof Terrace
You can visit the roof of the monument by a glass lift at the rear of the monument. The entrance is via the cafe. There is a small charge for using the lift but this is worth every cent as the views from the top are quite stunning.
From the terrace, you can pick out most of the popular sights in Rome. There are excellent views of the Roman Forum which is next to the monument. Rather unkindly perhaps, some people say it offers the best views in Rome because you can’t see the monument!
Santa Maria in Ara Coeli
The picturesque Santa Maria in Ara Coeli (Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven) church sits right behind the monument. The monument was built almost right up against this old church. This is definitely worth a visit if only to see the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli. This is a jewel-encrusted, wooden statue of the baby Jesus which is believed to resurrect the dead. This famous object was made out of olive wood during the fifteenth century.
To get to the church climb the 124 marble steps of the Aracoeli staircase next to the Vittoriano. This staircase was finished in 1348. It thanks the Virgin Mary for the end of the Black Death in Rome.
Other things to do in Rome
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