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If you want the best view of the city, don’t miss a trip to the top of The Wedding Cake in Rome. This Rome landmark at the Piazza Venezia is spectacular but also has a bit of a love-hate relationship with Italians and Romans due to its architecture and history. The official name for this building is Altare della Patria, but the locals have called it things like The Wedding Cake, The Dentures and The Typewriter. One look at this grand building will tell you why.

What is The Wedding Cake building in Rome?

The Wedding Cake (Altare della Patria) was built as a monument to the first King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, and also to symbolise the unification of Italy. It’s officially known in English as The Victor Emmanuel II National Monument or by its Latin title, Altare della Patria or the Altar of the Fatherland.

The best time to visit Altare della Patria

Our top tip is to get there early to avoid the crowds and the hot midday sun in summer or opt for a late arrival and see the sunset over Rome from the top of The Wedding Cake. The opening hours for The Wedding Cake (Altare della Patria) are 9:30 am – 7:30 pm (last admission at 6:45 pm) daily, except for 25 December and 1 January when the monument is closed.

The View from Piazzale del Bollettino
The Piazzale del Bollettino Terrace

How to get to the top of The Wedding Cake in Rome

Be warned, there are a few steps, but it is worth it and you can save your legs if you know where to go right from the start. Let’s begin at the entrance, a gate in the centre at the front of The Wedding Cake. At the entrance, there will be some police and a bag check, but usually no queue. From here, you walk up the first set of stairs.

At the first lower terrace in the centre, you will be greeted by The Goddess Rome. Under the statue of the goddess is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is identified by the eternal flame and an honour guild of two Italian soldiers. This war monument consists of a tomb of an unknown soldier from World War I, and honours all unknown soldiers who perished in various wars.

Moving up the second set of stairs will bring you to the main terrace, the Piazzale del Bollettino, where it’s worth spending some time admiring the grand colonnade and the impressive bronze horseback statue of Victor Emmanuel II located centrally in front of the monument. This statue was created by sculptor Enrico Chiaradia, who worked on it for almost 20 years.

Follow the Signs to the Panoramic Terrace and VIVE
Follow the Signs to the Panoramic Terrace and VIVE

But let’s continue our quest to the top, and this is where it can get tricky and a little confusing. The next landmark will be the café but you need to follow the VIVE signs to the lift, not the museum! VIVE is the company that runs the lift that takes you to the top of The Wedding Cake (Altare della Patria) and to the panoramic terrace. They also run the museum inside the memorial. Don’t buy a ticket to the museum using the self-service consoles as this won’t get you access to the viewing platform.

This is not the entrance you are looking for
This is NOT the entrance you’re looking for!

At the main terrace, walk to your right and follow the VIVE signs through an entrance, but don’t stop as you need to walk past the VIVE Museo Centrale and round to the café following the VIVE signage. As you walk past the café, you will want an espresso or wine or whatever; keep walking, and you will see the promised land: the ticket office.

Follow the signs to the cafe. but enjoy the views
Keep walking and follow the signs to the cafe

Buying tickets for lift to the top of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

You don’t need to buy tickets to enter The Wedding Cake (Altare della Patria). It’s free, but if you want to get to The Wedding Cake viewing platform top or enter the museums, you will have to pay. You can buy your tickets to the top of The Wedding Cake (the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) at the lift. At the time of writing, the lift cost was 16 euros per adult and 3 euros for concessions, and persons aged 18 and under were free. Please note you might need ID for proof of age or concessions.

If you get to The Wedding Cake at opening time like we did there are generally no crowds at all and no one queuing for the lift. After getting your tickets, walk to the lift, and the attendant will punch your ticket. Then, you can take your glass chariot (a.k.a. the lift) to the top.

Congratulations, you made it to the ticket stand
Congratulations, you made it to the ticket office

What to see at the top of Altare della Patria

The top of The Wedding Cake offers 360-degree views of Rome and all the main attractions, plus plenty of things you didn’t know existed. As you leave the glass lift, you will be immediately impressed with the view; go down a ramp to your left, and you will be greeted by the Goddess Victoria.  There is an identical status of this goddess riding a chariot at both ends of The Wedding Cake to symbolise victory, success and excellence.

Exiting the lift, you have the sight of Goddess Victoria
Exiting the lift, you have the sight of Goddess Victoria

Around the top of the viewing area, you’ll find descriptions of Rome’s main monuments. Some of the big stuff, like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, needs no introduction, but loads of lesser-known structures like the Teatro Marcello are worth further investigation. This Roman theatre, started by Julius Caesar and pre-dating the Colosseum, is the setting for summer concerts and just one example of all the stunning structures, monuments, churches, cathedrals and squires you can see.

The Colosseum  from up high
View of the Colosseum

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A 180-degree view from the Panoramic Terrace
A 180-degree view from the Panoramic Terrace

Exiting The Wedding Cake

After taking in the panorama from the roof of The Wedding Cake, you will exit the viewing platform using the same glass lift that took you to the top. Walking to the right of the lift will take you to the entry of the internal steps that pass the Giuseppe Sacconi Galleries, Zanardelli Hall and The Atrium of Liberty. The historical exhibitions in these areas are free to visit and worth a look, but you could skip this if you’re running short of time. The exit located on the right side of the building will (eventually) take you back out to the Piazzale del Bollettino.

The Atrium of Liberty
The Atrium of Liberty

Is visiting the panoramic terrace at The Wedding Cake worth it?

In a nutshell, yes, this is one of the many great things you can do in Rome and gives you a fantastic overview of the city and all the monuments. It is also a good visual guide to getting around the city and explains why sometimes you can’t believe how far you walked each day. So, elevate your visit to Rome and admire the city from on high. It is worth every Euro. 

Disclosure: The writers paid for their visit to The Wedding Cake and  highly recommend a visit to the Altare della Patria in Rome.

Want to know more about visiting Italy? Read our tips for visiting Rome and discover some great things to do in Rome including some of Rome’s hidden sights, or detailed write-ups on where to find the best view of Rome, how to tour Rome on a Vespa or in a vintage Fiat 500, visiting the Sistine Chapel after hours, exploring Lake Como, touring Venice’s underground food scene, staying in tiny Pitigliano or Sorano in Tuscany, 10 things to do in Assisi, visiting the Colosseum, touring the Vatican, a foodie walking tour in Trastevere, exploring Florence on a free tour, staying at a luxury Tuscany spa hotel like Terme di Saturnia Resort or Fonteverde Tuscan Resort and Spa plus tips on how to spa like a local in Tuscany, and a foodie walking tour in the heart of Rome.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.