If you want to figure out where a lot of Rome's modern-day negative attributes stem from, check out Piazza Venezia that's definitely the pulse of the chaotic frenzy. The old saying that all roads lead to Rome - well they all appear to intersect here and from what I saw, Rome's traffic is at it's heaviest and worst in this notorious plaza. If pedestrians have cause to get sweats/cold feet for trying to cross traffic, this place is it...all but unavoidable!
To further compound the problem, the area is a central magnet for dropping off/pick-up points of motorcoach tour buses; especially along Via Dei Fori Imperali. And with the crowds come hordes of street vendors selling trinkets, discussed further in my "What Spoils" entry, and what I took to calling "Sidewalk Chef Wagons" - the movable, overpriced eateries appearing to serve everything with a wannabe cook who had more attitude than motivation and know-how.
This all helps set the stage for two structures current Romans seem to loathe the most, as well as the circus-crowd the area attracts - and they've no problem telling you about it. The Victor Emmanuel monument and Palazzo Venezia are two places they'd like to pretend don't exist, but their being hard to miss is the biggest part of the problem.
Emmanuel was the first official King of a unified Italy as we know it today. Seems he didn't want anyone to forget, but he couldn't take a chapter from former emperors and simply build an arch or tower. Taking 40 years to complete, the Il Vittoriano literally dwarfs EVERYTHING in the area with the brashness of the white marble structure blending with nothing in color or architectural style. Guidebooks say Romans refer to this as the "typewriter" or "birthday cake" building; listening to nearby shopkeepers, you can only imagine what they say that's unfit to print! The structure is ego-gone overboard at it's best, but I found it to grow on me from the many different levels with varied artistic, architectural styles incorporated. Unfortunately, you can't get an indepth look as the monument is sealed off with armed guards for security reasons. Any wonder why? This Romans see; the other they remember!
Directly across is the 500+-year old Palazzo Venezia which houses a museum and gallery that has a $4 admission fee. Most unforgettable, it also once housed facist dictator Mussolini who, during the early-to-mid 20th century, went on a self-serving campaign to have large sections of historical Rome eradicated to clear way for his new empire in hoping to restore a world power. (His greatest efforts can be seen in the modernistic EUR complex somewhat south of the city.) On the elongated side of the Palazzo is the famous balcony where Mussolini used to address the crowds.