The Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome was constructed right after the unification of Italy, in 1870. It was named for the first King of Italy and is Rome‘s biggest square (316 by 147m), bigger even than Saint Peter’s Square. Thirteen streets lead away from the square. In 2020, the square reopened after a two year renovation.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II Rome
History and description
It may seem strange that the first king of Italy was called Victor Emmanuel II, but this is because by the time he was crowned he had already been King of Sardinia since 1849.
The architect Gaetano Koch took his inspiration from English gardens. This means that it has a rectangular shape, a central garden, and is lined by big, stately buildings. An unusual trait for Rome is the presence of porticoes on all sides. This is probably a nod to Turin, where the king was born, and where many streets have porticoes.
The garden is closed off by a gate and closes at sunset.
In one corner of the piazza there are a number of mysterious ruins, at the back of which the Porta Magica (Magical Door), with inscriptions and algebraical formulas, can be seen. This gate was the entrance to the Villa Palombara, residence of the alchemist Massimiliano II Palombara. The Villa Palombara was destroyed when the whole area south of Piazza Vittorio was chosen as the site for new constructions after the Unification of Italy and the choice of Rome as the new country’s capital city. The ruins themselves are known as the Trofei di Mario.
The group of sculptures near the western entrance was originally meant for the Piazza della Repubblica, but since the Romans didn’t like the design (as its nickname, Fritto Misto, testifies) it was moved to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.
There is also a small children’s playground in the Piazza Vittorio.
During the summer months Piazza Vittorio houses a movie festival where, at very low prices, one can see (synchronized versions) of the blockbusters of the past year.
The square used to have a bad reputation, since it used to house a rather smelly daily fish and vegetable market. Junkies slept between the stalls during the night, which of course did not enhance its reputation. Since the market was moved indoors, to the Via Principe Amedeo II (one block north of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II), the piazza has cleaned up its act and is now one of Rome‘s most beautiful squares, surrounded by stately buildings.