Nestled in Piazza Venezia, at the end of Via del Corso, the Victor Emmanuel II Monument – the Monumento nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II in Italian – is a gigantic neo-classical building celebrating the unification of Italy under the aegis of its first king: the legendary Victor-Emmanuel II.
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Brief history of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument
Built to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the unification of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II Monument– also called the Vittoriano, the Imperial Palace or the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) – was built between 1885 and 1927 (but inaugurated in 1911) following the plans of the Italian architect Giuseppe Sacconi.
If the Victor Emmanuel II Monument is now considered one of the symbols of the Italian capital, the Romans have not always been fans of the monument, for several reasons!
First, an entire medieval quarter had to be destroyed to make room for this massive marble monument. And the style of the building was not always to the taste of the capital’s inhabitants! The Romans disliked its monumental dimensions and its heavy aesthetics which they believed clashed with the architecture of the historic center of Rome. Hence the Victor Emmanuel II Monument’s several unflattering nicknames: the “typewriter”, the “piece montée”, the “sink” or even the “denture”…
🇮🇹 The Risorgimento, the unification of Italy 🇮🇹
In the 2nd half of the 19th century, Victor Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, King of Piedmont-Sardinia, Prince of Piedmont and Count of Nice opposed the Empire of Austria and gradually unified most of the Italian regions. He was proclaimed King of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, before completing the unification of the country by annexing Rome, which was at the time the capital of the Papal States, in 1870.
This period of Italian history is commonly known as the Risorgimento.
Visiting the Victor Emmanuel II Monument
The architecture of the monument
One thing is certain: you will have no trouble spotting the Vittoriano! The Vittoriano is 140 meters wide and 70 meters high (for a total area of 17,550 m²)… there is no missing its immaculate silhouette built in white Brescia marble and travertine!
Built in a neo-classical style with touches of eclecticism, the monument’s architecture is quite rich…if not over-the-top! While visiting the monument, don’t miss:
- The equestrian statue of Victor-Emmanuel II: located at the top of the large marble staircases, on the front of the building, this huge bronze statue, 12 meters high, is the work of the sculptor Enrico Charadia.
- The Altar of the Fatherland: paying homage to the soldiers who fell during the Great War, this altar houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on which burns an eternal flame watched by two guards at all hours of the day and night.
- The statues of Minerva represented as Victory (Athena Nike) driving a quadriga : these two bronze statues located at the top of the building are allegories of Unity and Liberty.
- The bas-reliefs: made by Eugenio Maccagnani, they represent the capitals of the old Italian states.
- The portico: 72 meters long, it is supported by 16 Corinthian columns 15 meters high each.
- The statues of the regions: these 16 sculptures refer to the 16 Italian regions at the time of the unification of the country (Italy now counts 20 regions).
- The fountains of the two seas: these two fountains represent the seas bordering the Italian coasts, the Adriatic Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Risorgimento Museum
The Victor Emmanuel II Monument also houses the Museum of the Risorgimento. The museum retraces the history of Italian unification by means of various historical objects and documents: flags, archives, weapons…
This museum is intended for an Italian public rather than foreign visitors, but nothing prevents you from taking a short tour if you have time. That being said, it really isn’t one of the must-see museums in the Italian capital.
The panoramic terrace of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument
Perched 70 meters above the ground, at the level of the two bronze statues of Athena, the panoramic terrace of the Victor Emmanuel II Monument offers a breathtaking view of Rome. A panoramic glass elevator (payable access) leads to the top.
Getting to the Musée du Quai Branly
The Victor Emmanuel II Monument is located in Piazza Venezia, opposite the Palazzo Venezia. Many buses (40, 46, 63, 70, 81, 83, 87…) stop in Piazza Venezia. The nearest metro station is Colosseo, on line B.
Hop-on hop-off tourist buses also stop nearby.
The Vittoriano is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (last access to the panoramic lift at 6:45 p.m.).
Access to the monument is free but you’ll have to pay €10 to take the panoramic lift (€2 reduced rate / free for young people under 18 and visitors with disabilities).
Admission to the Risorgimento Museum is €5 full price (€2.50 reduced price).
Unlimited access to public transport is included in the Omnia Card.
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🎟️ Activities: as for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide , Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!
🎫 Citypass: if you are staying in Rome for several days, it may be worth investing in the Roma Pass or the Omnia Card . As well as entry to some of the capital’s most iconic sites, these passes include access to public transport.
🚐 Transfers: if you want to arrive in Rome serenely, you can book your transfer from the airport to the city centre in advance. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. For more information: transfers in Rome.
🚌 Local transport: Rome has a comprehensive public transport system: metro, bus and tram. Access to public transport is included in the Roma Pass and the Omnia Card. If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included).
✈️ Flights and trains: to book your flights to Rome, Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.
For flights as well as trains and buses, the Captain recommends Omio.