Piazza Venezia is often associated by many Italians with Popular Film Actor Alberto Sordi’s unforgettable performance in Director Luigi Zampa’s 1960 Comedy “The Traffic Policeman”.
It was here that a young Sordi delighted movie-goers in his role as the over-zealous traffic cop. The piazza is of course dominated by the overpowering “Altare della Patria” (Altar of the Fatherland) a monument to honour Victor Emanuel II, unified Italy’s first king, which is however also often unsympathetically referred to as either the “wedding cake” or the “typewriter”. Lying at its foot and guarded by two soldiers is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Incorporated in the massive pure white marble structure, which was built between 1885 and 1905, it serves to honour and remember every soldier who lost his life during the First World War and who remains unidentified.
It was precisely from Palazzo Venezia that Dictator Benito Mussolini gave his rabble-rousing speeches. The piazza takes its name from Palazzo Venezia, once a residential papal palace from where Venetian Pope Paul II watched the jockeyless “barberi” (small, robust horses from North Africa) race down the length of the Via del Corso.
Like Palazzo Venezia, Palazzo Bonaparte also survived the massive demolition work and overhaul of the square at the start of the twentieth century. Here, Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Ramolino once lived until her death in 1818.