Alongside many other marvelous works, about midway between the Colosseum and the Pantheon, the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) yet stands alone - even if one only looks to the sheer width and breadth of the looming structure. Unusual among the major monuments you will visit in Rome, this building is neither dedicated to a saint nor was it built 500 years ago. A modern marvel, the altar is in honor of Victor Emmanuel II. Built relatively late, the plans were drawn up in the 1800's and the construction took four decades. Littered with dulled yet still beautiful statues of metal and stone, these charioteers and Roman gods are an impressive sight.
Coming to the base of the altar rising from the popular Piazza Venezia square, you will see two soldiers standing at attention. Much like the Guards of Honor at Arlington's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, these Italian sentries honor their countrymen at a tomb of the same name. These laudable men echo the sentiments of the famous Italian thinker Thomas Aquinas who wrote, "man is debtor chiefly to his parents and his country, after God."
This serene structure can be accessed for free and features more artwork and designs in its interior as well as a museum dedicated to the unification of Italy. There is a cost to use an elevator and reach the very top of the monument, yet there are other views of as much height to see in Rome - some of which are free. Though one of the more tourist-ridden sites of Rome, if one is already in the neighborhood to see the Colosseum or the Pantheon, you can hardly miss this free excursion to Altare della Patria.
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