Piazza Venezia

See a modern iconic monument in this busy piazza.

Sitting at the base of Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, Piazza Venezia is home to beautiful buildings, an iconic monument, and even an antique basilica. Don’t just pass through, take a moment to savor this pretty piazza.

Highlights

  • Marvel at an enormous equestrian statue at the Altar of the Fatherland.
  • Delve into the piazza’s Renaissance past in the Palazzo Venezia.
  • Converse about politics with Madame Lucrezia – a ‘talking statue’.

What to see and do 

Many people just pass through Piazza Venezia on their way to somewhere else without taking advantage of everything it has to offer. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

Palazzo Venezia

Built between 1455 and 1464 by Venetian Cardinal, Pietro Barbo, this Renaissance palace is the oldest building that remains on the square, and it’s what gave the piazza its name.

First used as a papal residence for the Cardinal, who later became Pope Paul II, it later served as the embassy to the Republic of Venice. During World War I it was acquired by the Italian government and was later taken over by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. 

Today, the palace is home to the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia which exhibits artworks from the Medieval and Renaissance periods.

The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument

This iconic monument, also known as the Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria) or simply as ‘Il Vittoriano’, was made out of white marble and is a highly symbolic building. It was built in memory of the Italian king from whom it gets its name and also to celebrate Italian unification.

It was designed to look like a neoclassical interpretation of a forum built on three levels and is topped by a monumental portico with a colonnade.

Every art piece represents a symbol of the Fatherland, from the statue of the goddess Roma holding the eternal flame to the enormous equestrian statue of Victor Emanuel II, the first king of Italy.

Basilica di San Marco

This baroque basilica is a reconstruction of an ancient one built-in 336 CE and has had many different forms over the years. It’s actually located on its own square, Piazza San Marco, but it’s surrounded on all sides by Piazza Venezia. It is the national church of Venice in Rome.

In front of the church is a gigantic and weather-beaten bust called Madame Lucrezia, probably representing the Eqyptian goddess Isis. She is one of the six ‘talking statues’ of Rome – political criticisms and satirical poems were posted on the statues dating back to the sixteenth century.

Palazzo Bonaparte

This palace was built in 1666 for the family d’Aste. It was inhabited by several different families over time but its most famous occupant was Maria Laetitia Ramolino, Napoleon Bonaparte’s mother. She was given refuge thereafter she was expelled from France and lived there until her death, in 1836. The palace is named after her.

Directions

Piazza Venezia is located right in the heart of the city center. It’s on the path of many bus routes and it’s also easily accessible by foot from most places in the center.

Bus: 40, 63, 64, 70, 75, 81, 87, 95, 160, 170, 204, 628, 630, and 716 all stop on or near the piazza.

Metro: Line A – Barberini (15-min.)

Line B – Colosseo (12-min.)

Tram: Line 8 has its terminal here.

Did you know that: (4 Interesting Facts!) 

  1. The Altar of the Fatherland has two fun nicknames: the Wedding Cake and the Typewriter. Which one do you think it looks like more?
  2. During the excavations to create the altar they unearthed an entire skeleton of a mastodon – an ice-age elephant.
  3. One of the buildings torn down to build the Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali was the house where the artist Michelangelo lived and died. It’s now commemorated by a plaque.
  4. The bronze equestrian statue on the altar is so big that it was once the scene of a dinner party. 20 workers celebrated the completion of the work by eating dinner around a long table inside the belly of the beast!

History

  • Piazza Venezia was initially a vast Medieval and Renaissance quarter. Its current appearance and layout were the result of new urban planning carried out in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century after the proclamation of Rome as the capital and, later, the death of King Victor Emanuel II.
  • In 1885, construction began on the Altar of the Fatherland, also known as the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument. Many structures were torn down to make place for it and to revamp the square. Palazzo Venezia (1455) is one of the few older buildings that remains.
  • The Palazzetto San Marco was demolished to allow a clear view of the altar from all the way down Via del Corso, an important street roughly 1.5km in length.
  • The Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali was built between 1906 and 1911 replacing two other buildings. This insurance building was designed to mirror the Palazzo Venezia and to make the square look more expansive.
  • The Altar of the Fatherland was finally inaugurated in 1911, even though it was not yet fully complete.
  • In 1921, the remains of an Unknown Soldier, a victim of World War I, were buried in a tomb underneath the statue of the goddess Roma atop the altar.
  • From the 1920s to the 1940s, fascist dictator Mussolini used Palazzo Venezia as his seat of government. It was from on its balcony that he gave his infamous speeches to crowds in the piazza below.
  • Today, the piazza is the center of one of the busiest intersections in Rome. Tourists and locals alike pass through it daily on their way to other places. But, many also stop here to marvel at this iconic piazza and all it has to offer.
Piazza Venezia map

Address: Piazza Venezia, , Roma, Italy · view larger map

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