View at Piazza Venezia in Rome Jeremy Vandel

Piazza Venezia

Dominated by the beauty of its monuments, the evocative Piazza Venezia stands out among other Roman squares because it represents the encounter between ancient, Renaissance, and Baroque Rome. Many of the capital’s main districts converge here, and with them, the Eternal City’s history.

Piazza Venezia, one of the most well-known squares of the capital, is the place where three districts merge: the Pigna (pine cone) district to the west, the Trevi districts to the east, and Campitelli district to the south. This particular location made the square, ever since ancient times, an important trade crossing point.

The five historical roads that start here make it a key point of the urban fabric. The oldest is Via del Corso, which links the square to the northern part of the capital. The path followed by Via del Corso dates back to 220 B.C. and retraces the Via Flaminia path, one of the most important consular roads.

The Piazza gets its name (meaning Venice Square) from the nearby Palazzo Venezia (Venice Palace). It has the honor of being the place where the famous Vittoriano stands - it is one of the most representative monuments honoring the Unification of Italy.

Brief History of Piazza Venezia

It is one of the squares that has seen the most alterations through the centuries. It has re-adapted several times, and with itself, the surrounding landscape. Find out how this amazing Piazza, despite many remodeling projects and the diversity of the monuments that are part of it, has managed to acquire its current symmetry and harmony.

Renaissance (1492 - 1789)

As mentioned, the Piazza owes its name to the monumental palace that the cardinal of Venice, Pietro Barbo, (later elected pope under the name of Paul II, between 1464-71), had commissioned for himself in 1455. To do so, he demolished the buildings that hosted the cardinals from the Saint Mark order. Up until then, in fact, the square was named after him: Piazza di San Marco.

The pope then decided to put a large basin in the middle of the square. The basin was made of granite and had been found at the Caracalla Baths. The square got then its second name, Piazza della Conca di San Marco (Saint Mark’s Basin Square).

Pope Paul III, from the Farnese family, had the basin moved to Piazza Farnese in 1545, where there already was a similar one. In 1560, the complex built by Pietro Barbo was donated from Pope Pius IV to the Republic of Venice. They made it their embassy, and for this reason, it later came to be known as Palazzo Venezia. From this, came the name of the square itself.

Piazza Venezia was the place where the finishing line of the famous Corsa dei Barberi, meaning Race of the Barberi (a type of racehorse) stood. In it, horses with no rider raced from Piazza del Popolo, through Via del Corso, finishing by a spot called Ripresa dei Barberi, (recovery of the racehorses) where clerks stopped them using long bed sheets. From this event Via del Corso takes its name: corsa means race in Italian.

This tradition was, for a long time, the main event in the Roman Carnival. It stopped only at the end of the XIX century, due to various accidents involving the spectators of the race, usually crowded along the racetrack.

Contemporary Age (1789 - present)

After the Napoleonic age, the Piazza became a Habsburg property from 1814 to 1916, housing Austro-Hungarian diplomats. It went back to the Italian State only after WWI.

The current appearance of the Piazza is the result of the remodeling operations made between 1885 and 1911 in order to build the monument known as Vittoriano or Altar of the Fatherland. For that purpose, an entire neighborhood by Campidoglio Hill had to be destroyed, along with a number of buildings. Among these was a big part of the Aracoeli Convent, Paul III’s Tower, and Palazzo Torlonia, later substituted by the Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali di Venezia, built between 1903 and 1906.

In the end, what was left was the current rectangular shape of the square. It follows the direction suggested by Via del Corso, with the Altar of the Fatherland to the south, and its borders are determined by the Palazzo di Venezia to the west and the Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali to the east.

The adjacent Piazza San Marco is somewhat of an appendix to Piazza Venezia. In fact, before the works to make room for the Vittoriano, the two squares made up a single urban space.

Piazza Venezia has probably been the one square in Rome to have seen the most alterations and renovation works. Initially, to allow the construction of the Altar, then for the construction of the Via dei Fori Imperiali and Via del Teatro Marcello, especially during the twenty years under a fascist regime.

At the beginning of the 1930s, this whole area was remodeled, as well as the entrance to the two new streets. After the expansion, the square became one with Piazza della Madonna di Loreto and the aforementioned Piazza San Marco. Thus, they all became part of the same urban space, divided into three squares.

The architect and landscaper Raffaele De Vico, together with the archaeologist Corrado Ricci intervened, managing to get a sense of symmetry with regards to the Altar, despite the irregularity of the spaces.

In particular, there were four green areas made by De Vico. Two of them, in front of the churches of San Marco and the Madonna di Loreto, were on flat ground and had a square shape. The other two, by the entrances to the new streets, had a semi-circular shape, adorned with Italic Pines and steps in travertine stone.

The flat garden in front of the Madonna di Loreto Church was later destroyed to allow the construction of the metro line C, receiving harsh criticism from the public. Now, instead of the garden, we can find an archaeological area, with the remains of Adrian’s Athenaeum.

In spite of such transformations, the square maintained a monumental size, offering those who come from Via del Corso an unbeatable view. It is certainly one of the most majestic sceneries, in which one can really feel the beat of history pumping through the veins of Rome.

Buildings and Monuments in Piazza Venezia

As mentioned, the square is full of majestic buildings, monuments, and works of art dating back to different time periods in the history of Rome. Some of the most relevant have been named in the historical section and will be talked about in more detail in this section.

Venice Palace

This building is one of the reasons why the square came to be known as a tourist site after fascism. This is because the Palace is not only a magnificent building, but it also hosts the Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia (National Museum of the Venice Palace) and the Istituto Nazionale di Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte (Archaeology and History of Art National Institute).

With its stern appearance, three tiers of windows, cornice crenellations, and an impressive tower, the building is considered one of the most significant civil works of the 1400s in Rome, as well as the first construction of this size built in the early Roman Renaissance.

It was the house of a Venetian Cardinal, Pietro Barbo (who later became Pope Paul II), who had it built between 1455 and 1464, using travertine from the Colosseum and the Marcello Theatre. The building was later expanded by Pietro’s nephew, cardinal Marco Barbo. It acquired its final and current appearance thanks to cardinal Lorenzo Cybo. The Palace became a residence for the Saint Mark cardinals, as well as a papal residency.

In 1564, Pope Pius Medici IV donated the Palace to the Republic of Venice, and it later became its embassy until 1797. As mentioned above, this is where the building’s name comes from.

Between 1567 and 1797, the diplomatic venue hosted renowned figures, like Borso d’Este Duke of Ferrara, the King of France Charles VIII, and the sculptor Antonio Canova. In 1715, ambassador Nicolò Duodo decided to carry out the renovation works that included the balcony overlooking Piazza Venezia. This was the unfortunate balcony that, at the beginning of the XX century, became the symbol of fascism.

Another honorary guest staying at the Palace in 1770, was the incredible Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At the time, he was 14 years old and performed in the so-called Sala del Concistoro.

After the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, and with the fall of the Republic of Venice (known as La Serenissima), the palace became the property of the Austrian Empire and kept its function as diplomatic headquarters.

Between 1806 and 1814, under the brief Napoleonic domination, the structure fell in disuse, to the point that the courtyard started to be used as a marketplace. Afterward, between 1814 and 1916, it hosted Austro-Hungarian representatives.

In order to bring the Palace back to its ancient glory, the architect Anton Barvitius carried out renovation works. The current location of the building was determined by the plans made during the reconstruction of Piazza Venezia, at the time the Vittoriano was built.

In 1916, the Italian Kingdom claimed the Palace for its patriotic and meaningful role. The monumental staircase, designed by Luigi Marangoni, is one of the most important works celebrating the Unification of Italy and the areas taken from Austria in the Third Independence War (1866) and in WWI (1915-18).

To the right of the building, almost at the corner with Via del Plebiscito, there is a small chapel dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie, commonly known as Madonnella of St. Mark, dating back to 1699.

Between 1929 and 1945 this palace acted as Seat of the Head of Government and the Great Council under Fascism. Today instead, the palace houses the National Museum of the Palazzo di Venezia and the Library of Archaeology and History Of Art.

The Museum of Palazzo Venezia

Since December 2014, the Museum has been property of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, together with the Library of Archaeology and History of Art.

The painting collection includes masterpieces from the XIII to the XVIII century. Among these, we can find the Annunciation with two Kneeling Donors by Filippo Lippi, as well as works by Giotto Beato Angelico, Giorgione, Benozzo Gozzoli, Guercino, Pisanello, Guido Reni, Giorgio Vasari and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

In the outside loggia, we can find a lapidary. Important collections are kept in the Museum, among these, we can find collections of harms, tapestries, coins, fabrics, medals, glass, silver, and wooden structures. The ground floor is dedicated to distinguished exhibitions.

Assicurazioni Generali Palace

Marco Besso was the one to want the realization of the Assicurazioni Generali Palace, being the director and later president of the company itself. The company decided to have its headquarters in the heart of Rome, near Trajan’s Column and the Imperial Fora.

The Palace replaced the Torlonia family building, occupying the same area. Giuseppe Sacconi, its architect, who also designed the new Piazza Venezia, wanted to mirror the aesthetic features of the Palazzo Venezia.

For this reason, many claim that the structure is just architectural forgery, as it imitates a renaissance building. This was because, after the construction of the Vittoriano, between the 1890s and the early 1900s, the architect wanted to build two symmetrical backdrops to the King’s monument, thus maintaining the symmetry of the square.

The design of the Palace was then prepared by Arturo Pazzi, Alberto Manassei, and Guido Cirilli, integrating the elegance and harmony of the Venice Palace, even re-proposing the same square tower and the height of the building.

The building was constructed between 1906 and 1911. It has a trapezoidal plan, arranged around a vast courtyard with a portico decorated with stucco and graffiti, with the function of a court of honor typical of Renaissance palaces.

The Bonaparte Palace

The last side of the square is occupied by the Bonaparte Palace, one of the historical buildings of the area, built between 1657 and 1667 by Giovanni Antonio De Rossi for the D’Aste family.

It was later purchased by the Rinuccinis, who bought it for its marvelous architecture, and in 1818 it went to Letizia Ramolino, mother of Napoleon Bonaparte I. She lived here even after her son’s fall, until the final days of her life, in 1836.

In 1905 then, the structure went to the Misciattelli family, but it is still known to this day as Bonaparte Palace. Since 1972 it has been the property of Assitalia. After the renovation works in 2019, the building has been opened to the public and it hosts exhibits and events. One of these was in 2020, where 50 masterpieces by Camille Pissarro e Claude Monet were exposed.

The most eye-catching elements of the Palace are surely the Baroque architecture and the frescos dating back to the ‘700. It also has a small mansard overlooking three rows of windows with uneven gables.

The façade consists of three floors, each with five windows, where the gables differ in design. Those on the second floor have curved tympanums and a lion, representing the symbol of the first owners, the D’Aste family.

The first floor features a covered corner balcony, one of the few still surviving, called bussolotti or mignani, and a belvedere at the top on which Bonaparte is written. It is said that here Letizia Bonaparte spent entire days sitting behind the covered balcony watching the Romans walk by.

Saint Mark Basilica

Incorporated into Palazzo Venezia (it is its Palatine Chapel), the Basilica was built in 336 A.D. by Pope Mark in honor of Saint Mark the Evangelist. It was later rebuilt in 833 by Pope Gregory IV, who decorated the apse with delicate mosaics, still present to this day. The bell tower was added in 1154.

The façade was then altered, according to Renaissance taste, with arches and a blue ceiling. These significant alterations were requested by Pope Paul II in 1465-1470.

The Pope, being of Venetian origins, had the ceiling of the central nave adorned with the emblem of Paul Barbo II, and dedicated the church to the Venetian community in Rome. In the interior, the Basilica seems to be medieval and features Leonardo Pesaro’s tomb (son of an ambassador), sculpted by Antonio Canova.

The current appearance took shape in three phases, between 1735 and 1750, following some demanding works commissioned by cardinal Angelo Maria Quirini, based on an idea by Filippo Barigioni.

At the time of the Vittoriano’s construction, the Basilica, like many other buildings, saw some alterations. Between 1947 and 1949, some works to reduce humidity in the building were carried out, the crypt was reopened and renovated.

There remain a few traces of the initial structure, due to the various works sponsored by the aforementioned Pope Barbo. The façade, built using travertine material from the Colosseum and the Marcello Theatre, consists of a three-arched portico on half-columns with composite capitals and a loggia with pilasters with Corinthian capitals.

The Romanic bell tower dates back to the XIl century, while the access portal is from the 1550s. The interior lost many of its Renaissance characteristics under the heavy decorative style of the 1600s and 1700s.

The interior, divided into three naves, the most admirable work is found in the apse, where the 9th-century mosaic depicts Christ with St Mark the Pope and Saints Agapitus, Agnes, Felicissimus, Mark the Evangelist, and Gregory IV; below, Christ and the Apostles.

There is a funerary monument by the side entrance, work by Antonio Canova. On the sacrament altar at the end of the nave, we find Saint Mark the Pope, by Melozzo da Forlì. Meanwhile, the body of the saint is kept in a porphyry urn in the presbytery. Finally, the sacristy preserves the remains of the original ciborium, precious furnishings, and reliquaries as well as a fragment of a 13th-century Crucifixion.

The Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II or Vittoriano

The National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II or Vittoriano, also called Altar of the Fatherland is a complex national monument standing on the northern edge of Campidoglio Hill. It is located in the heart of ancient Rome and connected to modern Rome thanks to a number of streets that radiate out of Piazza Venezia.

The Vittoriano was designed and built by Ettore Ferrari, Pio Piacentini and Giuseppe Sacconi. The latter was a young architect from the Italian region of Marche, who in 1882, won the competition held to design a monument celebrating the death of Victor Emmanuel II.

Construction began in 1855 and concluded in 1935. However, the official inauguration and opening to the public happened in 1911, during the International Turin Exhibit, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Italian Unification.

Sacconi decided to represent the themes of the fatherland and unification, both allegorically and geographically. We can therefore find the sculptural groups of Thought, Action, Harmony, Strength, as well as the Tirreno and Adriatico fountains (two seas to the east and west of Italy), as well as the Unity and Freedom Quadrigas, watching over the regional statues from above.

From an architectural point of view, it was conceived as a modern forum, an agora on three levels, connected by staircases and topped by a colonnaded portico. It also features the Altar of the Fatherland itself. It initially consisted of an altar of the goddess Rome, and later also that of the Unknown Soldier (Milite Ignoto in Italian), which will be analyzed more in-depth in the Curiosities section.

The monument was built in white botticino marble, instead of travertine, as originally planned. Inside, we find showrooms dedicated to the history of the Vittoriano itself. Other areas are the Sacrarium of the Flags and the main venue for the Risorgimento Central Museum, which traces the path that led to the Unification of Italy and often hosts interesting exhibitions. Risorgimento (Resurgence, in English) is the Italian term used to refer to the period and cultural movement surrounding the Unification of Italy, not to be confused with the term Renaissance, Rinascimento in Italian.

The whole monument was given a strong symbolic value, representing sacrifice for the fatherland and other related ideals. The figure of Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy and the Altar of the Fatherland come to symbolize the complex process of national unity and liberation from foreign domination. The whole place can be defined as a secular temple in honor of a free, united, and celebrating Italy.

From its inauguration, the Monument has hosted many important celebrative events, of course, this has reinforced its function as a symbol of national identity. The main annual events are the Anniversary of the Liberation of Italy from the Fascist Regime (25th April), Republic Day (2nd June), and the National Unity and Armed Forces Day (4th November).

In these last celebrations, the President of the Republic and the highest offices of the State pay their respects to the Church of the Unknown Soldier, in memory of the dead and missing in action.

After the closure of almost 30 years, from 1969 to 1997, there was a revaluation of the whole complex of the Vittoriano, which is now perceived as an example of art from an early Unified Italy, a fusion of a splendid fusion of Art Nouveau, Eclecticism and Neoclassicism.

In front of the Church of Saint Mark, we can find the Fountain of the Pinecone. It symbolizes the neighborhood of the same name, and it is one of ten similar fountains built in Rome between 1925 and 1927 (one for each neighborhood). It consists of a small basin with a central stem. Here, two highly stylized corollas support a pine cone; the water comes out of two lateral spouts and pours into basins on the ground, surrounded by four barriers.

Curiosities about Piazza Venezia

Not even the spectacular monument in Piazza Venezia was able to escape Roman satire and humor. Here you will find out what names Romans generally use to refer to it, together with many other interesting details, for instance, the location of Michelangelo’s humble house, where he lived until his death.

The Vittoriano: the biggest typewriter in the world

As mentioned in the previous section, the monument has long been mythologized as the temple of the national spirit, the essence of the values of freedom, patriotism, and unity.

Respected and valued, this piece has also been questioned more than once, both ideologically, aesthetically, and urbanistically. This is because many buildings dating back to Mediaeval Rome were taken down to make room for it. In fact, the whole floor plan of Piazza Venezia had to be reassessed. Because of this, the initial budget of 9 million liras was not respected, with the final cost reaching 26,5 million.

It is also often negatively associated with Fascism, even if the monument was built in the last decades of the 1800s, long before Mussolini declared himself Head of State, at the beginning of the 1920s. This association derives from the fact that Fascism, in a rather pompous (and predictable) way, appropriated many of the values represented in the monument.

In light of this, the Vittoriano ended up being scorned by Romans and thus nicknamed the typewriter or wedding cake. These terms aim to make fun of its color, shape, and maybe excessive dimensions. Regardless of these associations, the Monument is one of the most important works of art from the Italian Unification.

The Unknown Soldier

In this article, the figure of the Unknown Soldier has often been mentioned, due to its importance with regards to the Altar of the Fatherland and the Vittoriano in general. It is therefore important to clarify its role and history.

It is an ode to an Italian soldier who died during WWI, whose body was unrecognizable due to serious injuries. He became the symbol of the Fatherland and the Italians who died or were lost at war.

The tomb of the Soldier was built as a reminder and warning after World War I, and it is located inside the Altar of the Fatherland. Two armed soldiers and two perpetual flames stand guard.

The body, chosen among eleven others by a woman from the Italian city of Trieste, Maria Bergamas, who had lost her son in the war. The corpse was transferred to Rome amidst two wings of people. The coffin was placed here on the 4th November 1921, National Unity and Armed Forces Day in Italy.

Arrived in Rome after crossing Italy, the tomb of the National Hero went up the steps of the Vittoriano, carried by 12 soldiers who had been decorated with the Gold Medal for Military Valour.

In the background, stood the Regimental Flags of those that had participated in the war, the troops deployed, the veterans, the wounded, and a large crowd. That day, the Unknown Soldier became the symbol of the 650,000 fallen in the Great War, as well as all those who had died for the Fatherland.

Benito Mussolini’s Speech

On the 10th of June 1940 at 6 pm, from the balconies of the Venice Palace, Mussolini announced he had declared war on France and England.

With insidious cunning and knowledge of the media, the speech was transmitted through RadioMarelli in the major Italian cities: Genoa, Turin, Milan, Venice, Trieste, Bologna, Forlì, Bari, Florence, and Naples. Where Mussolini’s body couldn’t go, his metallic voice took his place.

According to some stories, he had practiced in front of the mirror, in his military suit. Abroad, his announcement had been expected for a few days. In Italy, instead, the news spread at the last minute: the radio and the hastily hung posters informed the public that the duce (a term with which Mussolini wanted to be referred to, meaning commander or leader) would have spoken to them. In the last few days, the propaganda had increased heavily.

What led Mussolini to bring Italy into a catastrophe? He was totally aware of the country’s military lack of preparation. He had encountered resistance from many sides. According to Renzo Felice, a well-known biographer of his, the reasons that moved him were mainly two. France was on its knees, overwhelmed by German forces. Mussolini’s fear of Germany was great at this point. In fact, it is reported that he had exclaimed “We cannot step back. After France, it might be our turn”.

With that speech, Mussolini brought an entire country to ruin. “There lies the tragedy of Italian history”, said Churchill a few months later from a London Radio, “and there stands the criminal”. A judgement hard to refute.

Saint Mark’s Palace Garden: Palazzetto Venezia

Many believe that Venice Palace (Palazzo Venezia) and Palazzetto Venezia are the same. In reality, the latter indicates a structure dating back to the 1400s, initially known as Saint Mark’s Palazzetto. It had an interior courtyard, conceived by Paul II in 1464 as an open garden surrounded by a porch, to which an upper gallery was added in 1466-68.

In 1770, under Paul III’s orders, 21 arches were closed. This started a process of alterations to the complex, so significant that they would change its overall appearance. The building then came to be known as Palazzetto. Demolished in 1909, to make room for the Vittoriano, it was rebuilt in 1911-12, repurposing the same stone materials.

The interior courtyard has two rows of arches, and opposite, octagonal pillars with composite capitals and columns with Ionic capitals in travertine; in the center, a well, sculpted by Antonio da Brescia.

Currently, the Palazzetto houses some sections of the Museum of Palazzo Venezia and the National Archaeology and History of Art Institute. At the corner of the building, we can find the statue of Madama Lucrezia, a large marble bust commonly known for being one of the *talking statues *of Rome (a series of sculptures on which, since the 16th century, Romans have posted anonymous messages, mostly containing criticism and satirical writings against the powers that be).

The statue is easily identifiable by the isiac knot that ties the scarf on the woman’s chest. This type of knot finds its origins in the cult of the goddess Isis, which was celebrated in Campo Marzio in the II or III century A.D. There was a massive statue of the goddess, wearing the same knot.

The bust was placed here around 1500 by the cardinal Lorenzo Cybo. Initially, it stood in front of the Saint Mark Basilica, then it was moved to the left, where we can find it now. The name of the statue originates, according to tradition, from dame Lucrezia d’Alagno. She was Alfonso d’Aragona’s favorite, (King of Naples), and she lived by the square in the second half of the XV century.

The statue became the protagonist of many popular demonstrations in Rome. On the first of May, during the Ballo dei Poveretti (meaning Dance of the Pauper, a carnival for the lower classes), the statue would be seen wearing garlands made of garlic, chilies, onions, and ribbons. Like the other five talking statues in Rome, Madame Lucrezia was often the protagonist of several Pasquinate, satire pieces against the government or those in power.

Piazza Venezia’s Lion

The façade of Saint Mark’s Palace features arches on the ground floor and a frieze painted in chiaroscuro, dominated by a series of romantic mullioned windows (vertically divided windows). From these, two rows of small windows stand out. Above the main entrance of the prestigious façade is the effigy of the Lion of St. Mark.

The bas-relief dates back to the XVI century, and it comes from the city walls of Padua. It was placed at the center of the façade, as an emblem of Italy’s rebirth and the Republic of Venice.

Michelangelo’s House

In the most secluded spot of Piazza Venezia, in a recess in the proximity of the Trajan Forum, a plaque on the side of the Assicurazioni Generali Palace indicates where Michelangelo Buonarroti’s house once stood.

He had been an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. Among some of his most famous works, we can name the David, the Moses, the Pietà in the Vatican, the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, and the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.

The plaque says: “Here was the house consecrated by the dwelling and death of the divine Michelangelo. SPQR 1871”. The structure was located in Via Macel de Corvi, a small and winding street then demolished to allow the construction of the Vittoriano.

Michelangelo lived in this house for half a century. It was given to him in 1513 thanks to his relationship with the Della Rovere noble house, as he was meant to design the statues on the Pope’s tomb in San Pietro in Vincoli church. The project was active for many years, but was never finished, and represented one of the darkest times in the artist’s life.

The house, contrary to Michelangelo’s art, was very humble. It had two bedrooms, the workshop on the ground floor, a dining room, and a cellar. It also had a loggia, a stable, and a vegetable garden. The artist famously lived there “poor and alone like a spirit bound in a bottle”.

The area consisted of a dense network of alleyways in which Rome expressed all its popular soul, for better or for worse. There were numerous landfills nearby. The artist himself, to describe the smell of his neighborhood, jokingly said it seemed as if he lived in a communal latrine.

Despite all this, Michelangelo lived there for a long time, but also produced some of his major works of art, such as the Giudizio Universale (Universal Judgement) o la Pietà (Piety, Mercy). He did not move to another house, even when he became the most well-known and sought-after artist in Rome.

He continued to live in the same house, like a common craftsman, with almost no luxury. It was between those walls that he wrote the letters and sonnets dedicated to Vittoria Colonna and it was in that same house that he fell in love with Tommaso de’ Cavalieri, who stood by his side until his death when he was almost ninety years old.

Piazza Venezia and Cinema

As we have mentioned in some of our articles, Rome has often been chosen by directors as a film set, whether they were depicting Roman culture or not.

One of the most well-known characters in the capital has always been the Traffic Warden, also called Pizzardone, who directed traffic from his platform in the middle of the crossroad.

The ultimate traffic warden is the one standing in Piazza Venezia, considering the square’s central location and the numerous streets that meet there.

This character has been interpreted by numerous actors in many of the films that contributed to the formation of the canon of Italian contemporary comedy. Among these, we find Il Vigile (The Traffic Warden) with Vittorio de Sica and Alberto Sordi. The latter also stars, together with Nino Manfredi in another important film by Mauro Bolognini.

Among other films that chose this location, we can find the latest Mission Impossible, which apparently chose the square for some of its scenes featuring the main talent, Tom Cruise.

How to get to Piazza Venezia

Like many other squares in Rome, Piazza Venezia is located in the center of the city, and can therefore be reached by various means of public transportation, by cab or by foot.

By metro

Piazza Venezia isn’t far from the stop Colosseo on metro line B. Once the exit of the metro has been reached, you will only need to follow Via dei Fori Imperiali for 950 meters (12 minutes on foot), and you’ll reach Piazza Venezia, with the Vittoriano on your left.

A single ticket (B.I.T.) costs € 1.50, but the metro also offers tickets for 24, 48, or 72 hours or even for a week.

See more info about the Rome metro.

See details on tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By tram

As for the tram, Piazza Venezia has its own stop, by the same name, on line 8. Once you arrive at the stop, you’ll find yourself in front of Piazza San Marco, to the left of Piazza Venezia.

Rome’s tram network also uses the 1.50 euro single-ride BIT tickets, as well as other available passes.

See more info about the streetcar in Rome.

See details on tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By bus

This is definitely the means of transportation that offers the most options. The buses in Rome allow you to reach Piazza Venezia with several lines. The ones here indicated stop right in front or to the side of the square.

Closest stop
Closest Stop*VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza VeneziaPiazza Venezia
ItineraryAn almost circular route, starting from Piazza Venezia, going around Piazza del Popolo and then back to the terminal.It links the Termini area to Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum. It extends to the south-east of Rome, to areas of little tourist interest.It travels a short distance in the centre of Rome, from stops Clodio to GiolittiIt links two areas to the north and south of Rome, passing through the centre and following the course of the Tiber for a stretch.It links the San Giovanni metro station to an area close to the Trevi Fountain, via Piazza Venezia.Useful for visiting places of interest such as the Colosseum, Piazza Venezia, Circus Maximus, the Roman Forum and even the Baths of Caracalla.It connects two areas outside the centre of Rome, from north-east to south, passing through the centre and stopping at Piazza Venezia.It crosses Rome from north to south, linking Villa Borghese with Montagnola, and stopping at Piazza VeneziaCollega una zona esterna, nel nord-est di Roma con il centro, facendo capolinea in prossimità dell’Isola Tiberina.It connects Termini Station with Castel Sant’Angelo, stopping at key points in the centre such as Piazza Venezia and Largo di Torre Argentina.It connects Termini Station with the Vatican, crossing the centre of Rome on the way.

The city buses use the same tickets that are also valid for the metro, trams, and suburban trains. The cost of a single bus ticket is therefore always €1.50 (BIT) and is valid for all other means of public transportation.

Find more info about buses in Rome.

See details about tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By taxi

Cabs are obviously the most comfortable option, but they are also the most expensive and are not guaranteed to be the fastest way to get to Piazza Navona due to the heavy traffic in the central area of Rome.

However, this means of transport is a good option if you feel like chatting with a cab driver, who can tell you a few secrets of the city or entertain you with his typical Roman humor.

The best way to get a cab in Rome is to book it by phone, mobile apps, or simply by going to a cab stand. For instance, there is a cab stand along the east side of the square.

See detailed information on taxis in Rome.

By foot

Walking is undoubtedly the option that ensures you enjoy the monumental beauty of the Eternal City to the fullest. Fortunately, Piazza Venezia is close to many other interesting sites.

You could, for example, consider using the square as a transition point from a tour of Ancient Rome to one of Renaissance and Baroque Rome. The first tour would feature monuments and locations such as the Palatine Hill, the Arch of Constantine, the Colosseum, the Imperial and Roman Fora, while the second one would include Venice Palace, Piazza Navona, the Bridge and Sant’Angelo Castle, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain.

Useful tips for your visit

  • For a visit to this beautiful square, we recommend a guided tour. There are many available, depending on the budget.
  • Normally, there aren’t long queues to visit the monuments in Piazza Venezia. However, whenever possible, it is advisable to book tickets online, to avoid wasting time.
  • If you choose to go without a guide and without booking any tickets, we advise you not to miss the majestic Vittoriano, one of the main and most representative monuments in Italy.
  • Piazza Venezia is always accessible and open to the public. However, its appearance is different depending on the season you visit. The night stroll is for example favored in summer.
  • If you are moving by car, we recommend you check and even book a spot in a nearby car park.
  • In terms of the time needed to visit the Piazza fully and in detail, we recommend half a day.
  • In winter and autumn, we recommend always bringing a jacket and umbrella.
  • An evocative time to visit the Piazza is surely during the winter holidays. Every year, a beautifully decorated and illuminated Christmas tree is placed in the center of the square, conveying the Christmas spirit.

Nearby places of interest

Piazza Venezia is located, as mentioned, in a strategic position in the capital. It is the crossroad between a number of main streets and it is near many of the major monuments of the city. Here you can find the most important.


The Flavian Amphitheatre is the most important symbol of Italy and therefore definitely worth a visit during your stay in Rome. Each year, about six million travelers visit the ruins of the Colosseum, which are among the new seven world wonders.

Admission to the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Palatine is included in a single ticket.

The Colosseum is 850 m south of Piazza Venezia (a 10-minute walk).

Palatine Hill

The Palatine is one of the seven hills of Rome and the first that was inhabited. Since the imperial period, it was the hill where the emperors built their palaces.

Here you can visit, among others, the remains of the residences of the House of Augustus, the Domus Tiberiana, the House of Livia, the Domus Aurea, the Farnesian Gardens, the Domus Transitoria, and the Hut of Romulus.

The entrance of the Palatine is located 1,3 km to the south of Piazza Venezia (a 16-minute walk).

Arch of Constantine

Among the three arches of triumph that still exist in Rome, this is the best-preserved one. The striking monument was built in the early fourth century to commemorate the victory of Constantine I at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD.

It’s the last great monument of Imperial Rome and was inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of Constantine’s reign. It’s an imposing 21 meters high and 25.6 m wide and stood on Rome’s triumphal route.

The Arch of Constantine is 1 km south of Piazza Venezia (a 12-minute walk).

Imperial Fora

The Fori Imperiali consists of a series of monumental fora (public squares). They were built over a total period of 150 years, between 46 BC and 113 AD. Over the years, Caesar, Vespasian, Augustus, Nerva, and Trajan contributed to its development.

The Imperial Fora were built to replace the Roman Forum after it became too small due to strong population growth and could no longer fulfill its purpose as the center of Rome.

The entrance to the Imperial Fora is 110 m to the south of Piazza Venezia (a 1-minute walk).

Circus Maximus

Considered to be the largest sports stadium built by man, this archaeological area was the site of legendary entertainment activities for nearly a thousand years.

Most of the building is underground and there’s not much left to see above ground. However, through a virtual reality tour, you can discover what the circus used to look like. It’s definitely worth a visit.

The entrance to Circus Maximus is 800 m to the southeast of Piazza Venezia (a 10-minute walk).

Domus Aurea

The remains of the great palace that Emperor Nero ordered to be built in 64 AD can be visited in a virtual reality experience tour.

The VR glasses allow you to explore Nero’s extravagant residence in all its glory and get an idea of what it would have looked like at the time.

The entrance to the Domus Area is 1 km east of Piazza Venezia (a 14-minute walk).

Ludus Magnus

The Ludus Magnus was the largest of the four ludi (gladiatorial schools) known from ancient Rome. The rectangular building complex was commissioned by Emperor Domitian (81-96) and completed by Hadrian (117-138).

The building was located in the valley between the Caelius and the Esquiline, east of the Colosseum—to which it was connected by a subterranean passage.

The Ludus Magnus is 1,3 km east of Piazza Venezia (a 16-minute walk).

Basilica of San Clemente

This intriguing building complex is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Pope Clement I. The first tier was built in the fourth century, making it one of the oldest Christian churches in Rome.

Over the centuries, three successive floors have been built over it, of which the top three can be visited. During a visit, you can admire (among other things) the underground temple of the Persian sun-god Mithras and numerous medieval frescoes.

The Basilica of San Clemente is 1,5 m from Piazza Venezia (19-minute walk).