The Monument for Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome is also known as the Vittoriano or the Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria). It was built as a celebration of the greatness and majesty of Rome and is visible from almost anywhere in the city. Since 1921 the “Unknown Soldier” is buried in the monument. The style is neo-classical. Not everybody is equally impressed by the monument as some of its nicknames (“Wedding Cake”, “Typewriter”) testify.
Vittorio Emanuele Monument Rome
Different parts of the Vittoriano are open at different hours. The Complesso Vittoriano is open from Monday till Thursday from 9.30 till 19.30, on Friday and Saturday from 09.30 till 22.00 and on Sundays from 09.30 till 20.30.
Entrance to the Vittoriano itself is free. There are a couple of museums inside the monument. The Complesso Vittoriano hosts temporary exhibitions. Ticket prices depend on the exhibition. The Museo del Risorgimento, which showcases the period leading up to the Unification of Italy, is free. The panoramic lifts cost 7 Euros, but children up to the age of 10 do not pay. Children between 10 and 18 of age pay 3,50 Euros.
Address and phone
Address: Piazza Venezia – Rome. Tel.: +39 06 6783587 for panoramic lift, +39 06 6793598 for Museo Centrale del Risorgimento, +39 06 6793598 for the Institute for the History of the Risorgimento. Nearest bus stops: Piazza Venezia (lines 40, 60, 64, 70, 170, H, N7, N8, N9, N15, N18.
In 1878 the Italian Parliament decided to construct a national memorial for the recently deceased king Vittorio Emanuele II. In the following years two international architectural competitions were held.
The winner of this competition, Giuseppe Sacconi used the great classical Roman temples as models for his design. The spot where the monument was to be built was also highly symbolic, since it was right at the heart of the former Roman Empire, and thus glorified the Italian Risorgimento.
Although construction of the monument began in 1885, the project progressed but slowly. Initially, travertine marble was the preferred material, but this was later rejected in favor of white marble from Brescia.
In order to build the Vittoriano, the entire area had to be changed. Many existing medieval and Renaissance buildings, including the Palazzetto Venezia and the Church of Santa Rita, were demolished.
After Sacconi‘s death in 1905, the architects Gaetano Koch, Manfredo Manfredi and Pio Piacentini took over.
On June 4, 1911, during the International Exposition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the unification of Italy, King Vittorio Emanuele III consecrated the enormous gilded bronze equestrian statue. To render the idea of how absurdly large the statue is, the king’s mustache is three meters wide.
Ten years later Armando Brasini placed the body of the Unknown Soldier in the crypt.
Between 1924 and 1927 Carlo Fontana and Paolo Bartolini placed the Quadriga of Unity and the Quadriga of Freedom on the propylons.
It was not until 1935 that the monument was finally completed, which means that construction took almost exactly 50 years.
Not everyone is impressed by the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele, hence the nicknames “typewriter,” for its shape, and “wedding cake,” for its kitschiness and white color. It is made, unlike most Roman monuments, not of Travertine but of Brescian marble, so it does not harmonize with its surroundings. This is all the more striking because of the enormous size of the building, which is visible from almost anywhere in Rome. Some people even claim that the best view of Rome is from the Vittoriano itself, because this is the only place in the city where you don’t have to look at the building itself.
The Vittoriano is 135 meters wide and, including the quadriga‘s, has a height of 81 meters. It consists of three main elements, including the steps, the enormous portico with its 16 columns and the two propylons on the sides.
The plant motifs on the Altar of the Fatherland are highly symbolic. The palm tree signifies victory, the oak represents strength, the laurel stands for victorious peace, myrtle indicates sacrifice and the olive represents unity.
The two gilded bronze sculptural groups on the sides were taken from subjects from the writings of Giuseppe Mazzini.
The central equestrian statue represents King Victor Emmanuel II himself.
The two fountains at the bottom represent the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The panoramic terrace was completed in June 2007. If you don’t want to pay for the elevator at the back of the building you can climb the 196 steps starting from the colonnade instead.
Altar of the Fatherland
After World War I, the Altare della Patria (the “Altar of the Fatherland”), the somewhat pompous-sounding Italian version of the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, was added to the building. Guards protect the monument 24/7, and the torches to the left and right burn eternally.
The Museo Centrale del Risorgimento, with a collection of three thousand drawings of Italian army uniforms from 1866 to the present, is inside the monument. It is free to enter and the entrance is on the right side.
At the back of the monument there is a panoramic elevator. To get here, walk right around the building and then climb the steps to the Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church. Before the entrance, turn left and you will see the elevator in a kind of corridor on your right. (If you walk past this, rather pricy, elevator you will come to a café with a magnificent view of the Roman Forum).
If you walk up the Via San Pietro in Carcere to the left of the monument, you will come to the Complesso Vittoriano. This museum features ever-changing exhibitions, often featuring lesser-known works by well-known artists.
Banners and torpedo boats
In the Sagrario delle Bandiere, banners are on display along with the richly decorated cases in which they are kept. Some torpedo boats are also on display here. The entrance is in the Via San Pietro in Carcere.