Located about halfway between the Pantheon and the Colosseum, the Atare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), which is also known as the Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, can be seen from throughout the neighboring streets. It is a huge, marble building that also has the tomb of the unknown soldier, the army museum, and a panoramic viewing platform. There is also the busy Piazza Venezia located across from the building as well as the Santa Maria di Loreto church. What certainly stands out are the different statues, including the two of the goddess Victoria riding on a chariot being pulled by four horses known as a quadrigas.
After the death of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy, in 1878, the government approved construction of the monument. It was built on the northern side of Rome’s Capital Hill and construction began in 1885. It stands out due to its grand size, bright white marble, and tall columns on its façade. As you walk up the stairs to where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located, which is below a statue of the goddess Roma, the views of the city start to become impressive. In addition to the tomb with its uniformed guards, there is also the eternal flame located there as well. The statue of Victor Emmanuel II on horseback is certainly a dominating feature.
To enjoy even more amazing views of Rome’s skyline, take the lift to the rooftop that was added in 2007. From the rooftop, the unique buildings and architecture of this historic city spread out all around you. You can also see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum from the rooftop viewing platform, which is almost more impressive than seeing it from the ground below. The views of the city are probably the highlight of the monument, but the army museum is interesting as well. From the stairs or the rooftop, the beautiful Piazza Venezia with its busy roundabout stretches out before you and there are many restaurants in the area. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant that had seats on an outdoor balcony that was directly across from the monument building.
From what we’ve read, there are some mixed feelings for locals regarding the Altare dell Patria, some of national pride and others feeling that it is a little too ostentatious. Either way, since it is centrally located and has the rooftop viewing platform, it is certainly a location that should be part of your walking tour of Rome. We visited on our second day and found it an easy walk from the Pantheon through Rome’s winding streets.
There are a few places where the floors, ceilings, and even the walls can be just as fascinating as the pieces of art or furniture that are in them. The Vatican Museums are definitely such a place where no matter which way you look there seem to be beautiful geometric patterns or murals painted directly onto the ceiling. Obviously there is the Sistine Chapel, but just within the Vatican Museums themselves there is much to see beyond the famous artwork that is housed there. There are certainly many other palaces that we’ve visited that have very ornate floors and ceilings, but these are definitely some of the most interesting and beautiful. It isn’t often that you find yourself taking photographs of a floor, but just because it is beneath your feet doesn’t mean it can’t be art. It is certainly a reminder to not only look left and right, but to also look up and down as well.
There are many sights to see when visiting a city with a history as rich as Rome’s and one of those is certainly the Pantheon. There are many fascinating things about the Pantheon, including the fact that it was originally created as a temple to worship all of the Roman gods. Unlike most other temples that were built to specifically honor a single god, this temple was meant to be a place where one could visit to gain favor from all of the gods. Even more interesting is that it was converted to a church in the 7th century and has been in continual use throughout its history.
Walking the exterior of the building provides you with the true sense of how old the Pantheon really is as the walls are worn with age and ruins of an ancient wall are preserved at its base. The shape of the Pantheon has been an inspiration to generations of architects that were fascinated by its dome that opens to the heavens. Once you step through the threshold of the Pantheon and enter the basilica, you are greeted with a sense of juxtaposition. Unlike the worn exterior, the interior is adorned with beautiful art as well as marble walls and floor.
You should certainly expect there to be plenty of crowds as you visit the Pantheon as it is likely on every tourist’s itinerary, as it should be. It is still a church called the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres and the altar is quite notable as you enter the Pantheon. You should certainly go to the center of the large, circular room and look up at the dome with its hole to allow light and suggesting access to the heavens. You should also take time to look at all of the statues that are in the niches of the portico as well as the reliefs and paintings as they are all incredible to see.
With so many places to see in Rome, such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, etc., the Pantheon is definitely an important location to visit. Unlike the Acropolis of Athens where the temples are isolated on a hill that overlooks the city, seeing the Pantheon in the winding, narrow streets of the city is quite a unique experience.