Rome’s Wedding Cake: Il Vittoriano

Many travelers visit Rome to see the must-see attractions – the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, or the Trevi Fountain.  While all of these are certainly amazing wonders, there was a monument that also left a lasting impression for us during our visit to the Eternal City. When roaming around Rome, it’s hard to miss this massive white structure in the city center.

Rome Vittoriano wedding Cake Typewriter

The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II) or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) is a monument to honor the Italian unification and Vittorio Emanuele II – unified Italy’s first king.  The monument, completed in 1935, is made of pure white marble and commonly known as Il Vittoriano.

Roma Statue Vittoriano

There’s definitely a lot to take in at first glance.  This imposing landmark features a large bronze sculpture of King Vittorio Emanuele II on horseback in the center flanked on both sides by grand staircases.  There were fountains, numerous large sculptures, mosaics and Corinthian columns among others that were a bit overwhelming.

Vittoriano statue

At the center of the first balcony is the Altar of the Nation with a striking figure of the Goddess of Rome – standing against a gold mosaic background.

Goddess of Rome statue Vittoriano
Directly below the statue is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I and has been here since 1921.  Giant wreaths and an eternal flame adorn it. Two soldiers stood steadfastly on each side with some pretty serious machinery on hand.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Rome
We were there in time to watch the changing of the guards, which with any ceremony, is always interesting to see.

Changing of the guard at tomb of unlnown soldier rome

This 230 ft(70 m) high structure was definitely impressive but has also been a controversial landmark.  It was built on the slopes of Capitoline Hill where Roman ruins and medieval churches were demolished to make way for it.  Many locals aren’t too fond of it and think its flashiness doesn’t fit the more subdued color tones of most of Rome’s architecture.

Vittoriano column

It’s been called ”too white”, “pompous” and ”too large” — earning the nicknames of “wedding cake” and “typewriter”.  While the wedding cake comparison comes to mind right away – the typewriter association is not so obvious.

Vittoriano sculptures

This 20th century landmark certainly stands out quite a bit and looks out of place among the ruins nearby.   Its neighboring structures are comprised of old buildings with rotundas and domes.

Vittoriano first platform

Inside the structure’s base is the museum of Italian Reunification and another that houses armed forces war flags.  We didn’t visit the museums but the interior portions we saw was just as ornately decorated as the outside.

Inside Vittoriano

The major attraction at Il Vittoriano is the glass-walled elevator to the top, called Rome from the Sky, located behind the building.  There is one thing the locals can agree on though — it has stunning panoramic views of Rome from its roof.

Vittoriano glass elevator

Back of Vittoriano with glass elevator

One side overlooks most of Rome with all the domes scattered throughout the skyline and St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance while the other side is the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.

Rome view with Vatican

View from Vittoriano of Vatican

While it may not be a favorite landmark or the most attractive,  it is definitely worth a visit especially for its extravagant architecture and undoubtedly one of the best ways to see Rome.

 Have you visited Il Vittoriano?  What did you think of it?

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