VICTOR EMMANUEL II
Is it a theatre? Is it a government building? No, it’s a monument built to honour King Victor Emmanuel II. The Italians call it the Vittoriano, but its nicknames are ‘The Typewriter’ and ‘The Wedding Cake’.
The panoramic view of the Eternal City from the Vittoriano terrace is absolutely incredible. You can see the whole of Rome, from the Colosseum to Saint Peter’s Basilica. That’s hard to beat! Based on the view alone, I’d be scoring the Vittoriano a solid 5. But let’s not get carried away...
... because without the view from the terrace, the monument would just be a glorified wedding cake. It’s big, it’s white and it looks nice in photos. Only it doesn’t taste very nice ;). On that basis, I’d be awarding a score of just 3. So, I decided to settle on 4 in the end!
Treat yourself to a coffee on the first terrace you come to. Soak up la dolce vita and take in Rome’s ancient centre. If you’re still keen to see even more of the city, I’d recommend taking the lift up to the panoramic terrace!
Last Modified: 30.05.2022 | Céline & Susi
at a glance
Tuesday – Sunday, 9.30 a.m. – 7.30 p.m.
(last ticket sale 6.45 p.m.)
Tuesday – Friday, 9.30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturday + Sunday, 9.30 a.m. – 11.45 a.m. and 1.30 p.m. – 6.00 p.m.
Last admission 20 minutes before closing
What is there
If you stand in the middle of the Piazza Venezia with your back to the Via del Corso, you’ll be facing the monument that was built to honour King Victor Emmanuel II. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was an ancient temple or the entrance to a stadium. Theatre, opera house and government building are other popular guesses. Some Italians refer to the building as ‘The Typewriter’ or ‘The Wedding Cake’.
But, in actual fact, this massive monument made from limestone and marble was commissioned in the 19th century following the death of Victor Emmanuel II, the first King of Italy. It’s now home to a museum collection of Italian national symbols.
The sheer size of the monument is striking – it’s 135 metres wide and 70 metres tall. Highlights include the huge steps, the twelve-metre-tall bronze statue of the king on a horse, and the eternal flame in the middle of the steps that burns in honour of the Unknown Soldier and is guarded by two soldiers all day, every day. Two quadrigas top the monument, with one symbolising freedom and the other unity to commemorate the unification of Italy and pay tribute to the Italian state.
The Museo Centrale del Risorgimento is located in the eastern wing of the building. You’ll find the flag museum in the middle – entry is free and you can also see some parts of military ships. It’s free to climb up to the first terrace, but you’ll have to pay if you want to take the lift up to enjoy that view from the panoramic roof terrace.
Believe me when I say you won’t regret going all the way to the top. An incredible panoramic view across the rooftops of Rome is waiting for you up there. The Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Saint Peter’s Basilica! Don’t worry – you won’t have to figure out what all the buildings are in the distance. You can have a guess and then check on the info boards to see if you got it right. If your eyesight is good enough, you may even be able to spot the Piazza del Popolo obelisk and the top of the Trevi Fountain.
Important info: You might want to avoid the Vittoriano in the late afternoon because that’s when it can get a bit overcrowded.
The Vittoriano is a national monument built to honour King Victor Emmanuel II. You may also hear it called the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument or the Altar of the Fatherland. Or even ‘The Typewriter’ if you’re talking to the locals.
With building work ongoing between 1885 and 1911, the unfinished monument was inaugurated on the 50th anniversary of Italian unification. The monument was finally completed in 1927. It has since come to be one of Italy’s national emblems. You’ll find it on the Piazza Venezia between Trajan’s Forum and Capitoline Hill.
The Museo Centrale del Risorgimento is located in the eastern wing of the building and home to an exhibition on the Italian war of independence that commemorates the unification of Italy in the 19th century. Temporary exhibitions are held there on a regular basis too.
You’ll also find parts of military ships at the flag museum (Sacrario delle Bandiere) inside the monument.
After a bomb was detonated at the monument in December 1969, it was closed to the public until the year 2000.
If you make your way up the wide travertine steps, you’ll come across two soldiers guarding the grave of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame in the middle. The bronze statue of King Victor Emmanuel II on a horse towers above you, measuring in at 12 metres tall and 12 metres wide. Sculptor Enrico Chiaradia spent almost 20 years working on this masterpiece.
You’ll see two quadrigas on the roof – one on the left and one on the right. The left-hand chariot (by Carlo Fontana) symbolises unity, while the right-hand chariot (by Paolo Bartolini) symbolises freedom to commemorate the unification of Italy since it wouldn’t have been possible without both unity and freedom.
A lift has been taking visitors up to the memorial’s roof terrace since 2007. A breathtaking view across Rome awaits as another symbol of this monument’s grandeur.
THE ITALIAN MONARCHY
AND VICTOR EMMANUEL II
Italy hasn’t been a republic for very long. It wasn’t until 1946 that the citizens voted (narrowly) to abolish the monarchy.
Up until that point, Italy had been a kingdom and Victor Emmanuel II (1820–1878) was the country’s first king. The ‘II’ in his title is confusing, but it is likely that he used it to honour his father.
He reigned over the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1849, before becoming the first King of Italy in 1861. After his death in 1878, his son Umberto I succeeded to the throne. He was assassinated in 1900 and succeeded by his own son Victor Emmanuel III. All three kings were from the House of Savoy.
The Vittoriano, a monument to Victor Emmanuel II, was built in Rome between 1885 and 1927 according to the plans drawn up by Giuseppe Sacconi.
Official website of the monument (IT): ilvittoriano.com
Text and image rights: © Céline Mülich, 2016 – 2022
With the support of Susanne Vukan