Visit Rome’s most controversial monument.
Some think Rome’s Altar of the Fatherland is beautiful and informative, others say it’s pompous and gaudy, but one thing’s for certain – this site is unmissable. Come visit one of Rome’s more modern monuments and find out for yourself.
Altare della Patria, seen from the middle of Piazza Venezia
As a local, I grew up hearing my parents and grandparents describe the Altare della Patria as ugly and claiming that only tourists appreciate it. However, I was personally fascinated by this immense white monument located in the heart of Piazza Venezia.
The History and Meaning of Altare della Patria
Altare della Patria translates to Altar of the Fatherland in English. It is the name given to the Monumento Nazionale, a Vittorio Emanuele II, also known as the Vittoriano complex.
The complex includes:
- monument to Vittorio Emanuele II
- the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Tomba del Milite Ignoto).
- Palazzo Venezia and its museum
- the Museum of Risorgimento
- The Gardens of Palazzo Venezia
The entrance to the Museum of Risorgimento
Construction of the monument began in 1885 and was completed in 1935. However, it was officially inaugurated and opened to the public in 1911 as part of the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Italy.
Italy was a collection of smaller states until 1868 when it became a unified country. In 1885, after the death of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy, the architect Giuseppe Sacconi began the construction of this grand complex.
The decision to build it at the end of via dei Fori Imperiali reflects the desire to create a connection between ancient and modern Rome and symbolizes how the unity of Italy was a pivotal moment in the history of the land.
The Altare della Patria is a symbolic connection between ancient and modern
Everybody Loves Altare della Patria – Except Romans
To commemorate Vittorio Emanuele II and the unification of Italy, multiple buildings were demolished, and an immense monument was erected, obstructing the view of the Roman Forum and Colosseum from Piazza Venezia. In its place, a majestic monument crafted from white marble was constructed, featuring a style that starkly contrasts with the ancient structures. And that’s exactly why my family used to define it as ugly.
Map & Directions (Location)
The Altare della Patria is located on Piazza Venezia, a busy square right in the city center of Rome. It’s within walking distance of many major sites, such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It’s easily accessible by public transport.
Metro: Line A – Barberini (15-min.)
Line B – Colosseo (12-min.)
Bus: Lines 40, 44, 63, 64, 70, 75, 81, 84, 87, 95, 160, 170, 204, 628, 630, 716, 780, and 810 all stop on or near Piazza Venezia.
The main stops that you want to look for are:
- in front of Palazzo Venezia
- in piazza San Marco
Bus stop in piazza San Marco
You can also reach Altare della Patria by scooter
I wouldn’t advise driving there with your own car: even if your car was allowed inside ZTL (limited traffic area), parking is very limited in the whole area and not allowed in piazza Venezia or surrounding streets.
What to See and Do
Altare della Patria: Vittoriano
A visit to the Altare della Patria includes exploring the entire Vittoriano complex and Palazzo Venezia.
The Vittoriano is free to enter and definitely worth a visit. Why? Because it offers breathtaking views of Ancient Rome from above.
A view of Piazza Venezia from the Vittoriano
The complex consists of multiple levels that can be reached by climbing several steps. Be prepared for a bit of a workout, and in the summer, avoid going during the central hours of the day as it’s not shaded.
When visiting Vittoriano, get ready to climb several steps
Alternatively, you can take a lift to the Terrace Italia, which is always included in guided tours of the complex.
The view above Rome from Terrace Italia
Altare della Patria: the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier
The Monumento al Milite Ignoto (Monument of the unknown soldier) contains the remains of an unidentified soldier who represents all the soldiers whose names are unknown and who died during World War I. An eternal flame guarded by two Italian soldiers burns at the tomb, symbolizing the eternal memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the country.
The soldiers guarding the Monument
Palazzo Venezia has witnessed the rise and fall of empires. Originally built in the 15th century, using travertine sourced from the Colosseum and the Theatre of Marcellus, it once served as the papal residence.
The palace remained under Papal ownership until 1564 when it was transferred to the Republic of Venice, which established its embassy there. That is why it is still known as Palazzo Venezia today.
On the left, Palazzo Venezia
Later, it became the headquarters of Mussolini during his Fascist regime. Today, It houses the National Museum of Palazzo Venezia and serves as the headquarters of the National Institute of Archaeology and History of Art (INASA), which includes an important library of archaeology and art history.
The entrance to the National Institute of Archaeology and History of Art
The Gardens of Palazzo Venezia
Free to visit, the small gardens of palazzo Venezia are accessible from:
- piazza San Marco
- via del Plebiscito
They are usually quiet and are perfect for relaxing after a visit to the museums.
The Gardens of Palazzo Venezia
Tickets, Opening Hours, and Admissions
- Reserved Entrance Ticket – This ticket gives you entrance into the Venice Palace Museum, the Museum of the Risorgimento, and the panoramic elevator.
- The combined ticket is valid for 7 days.
- The standard full-price ticket (visitors between 18 and 25).
- Free entrance is granted on the first Sunday of the month and the free ticket is only valid for daily entrance (not 7 days).
- Full Price ticket – This ticket is intended for all adults over the age of 18.
- Reduced ticket – This ticket is intended for youths below the age of 18 and seniors over the age of 65.
- Altare della Patria is open everyday from 9:30 to 4:30 pm.
- Palazzo Venezia closes at 6:30 pm
You can purchase a convenient all-in-one ticket online that includes everything or just visit each part separately. You can also buy a guided tour of the Altare della Patria, which is probably the best option if it’s your first time visiting Rome, as you’ll have the chance to learn more about the place and its history.
Although access to the monument and the museum it contains is free, there is a small fee to pay to use the glass elevator to access the panoramic terrace at the top. All the attractions are separated and within walking distance, so you can decide what to see first and visit the complex at your own pace.
Vittoriano and the Gardens of Palazzo Venezia can be visited for free.
Once you reach the top of Altare della Patria, there is a lovely bar on the terrace that offers an amazing view of the Roman Forum, and it’s definitely worth a stop.
The lovely bar at the top of Altare della Patria
Inside the museums, you will find free toilets.
After Your Visit to Altare della Patria
In the area, there is so much to do.
- Via del Corso
Head to Via del Corso for a shopping experience. Here you’ll find many luxury boutiques and high-street fashion brands to explore.
Pay a visit to the Pantheon, one of the most ancient churches in Rome.
- Largo Argentina
Largo Argentina, within walking distance, features the remains of ancient Roman temples at its center. Here, a renowned colony of cats resides, tended to by volunteers. In Largo Argentina, you will also find La Feltrinelli, a prominent bookstore offering a wide selection of international books.
One of the most spectacular fountains in Baroque Rome, this attraction is busy all day, but it’s definitely worth visiting. When you do go, be sure to turn your back to the fountain and toss a coin in. This ritual is believed to guarantee a return trip to Rome!
The Capitoline Museums are located on top of Capitoline Hill. Pay a visit to see its rich collection of ancient Roman art and take advantage of the breathtaking view over the Roman Forum from its windows.
Probably the most known attractions of Rome. And yes, they’re definitely worth a visit.
The Roman Forums deserve a visit.
Did You Know That: 4 Interesting Facts
- The monument is known by many different names, some less serious than others. Among them are: ‘The Typewriter’, ‘The Wedding Cake’, and ‘The False Teeth’.
- The most ancient thing found during the excavation work to build the monument was not a Roman ruin but the skeleton of an ice-age elephant.
- Many journalists and art critics found the monument to be a bit too ostentatious. Some viewed its construction as a failed attempt to revive the Roman Empire.
- The piazza on the monument was built used to be a part of an old Medieval quarter. Many Medieval buildings, and a portion of the Capitoline Hill, were destroyed to erect the altar, much to the dismay of many Romans.
Address: Altar of the Fatherland, Piazza Venezia , 00186 Roma, Italy · view larger map