An impressive lighting system for Rome's Vittoriano has been inaugurated by Luce per l'Arte, the department within Italy's national electricity board (ENEL) that handles permanent and temporary illumination of monuments. The massive building, based on classic Greek and Latin styles, honors Victor Emmanuel II of Savoia, the first king of united Italy. Based on a design by architect Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885, but not finished until 1935, the monument now houses the nation's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, museums, and the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Homeland), a bas-relief featuring a statue of the goddess Roma.

The Vittoriano already stands out from surrounding buildings thanks to its extensive use of white Italian marble (it is called "The Birthday Cake" by foreign residents of the Eternal City). It is now lit by a network of fixtures and lamps chosen according to the material to be illuminated.

Although total power is 62.5kW, there are 390 fixtures installed. Ninety percent of individual instruments are between 100W and 150W, as the white marble has a high reflection index. Lux levels are 25-30 on background sections, 60-70 in the porticos, 100-120 on the main architectural features and the marble sculptures, and 150-200 on the bronze statues (due to their low reflectivity). The system is installed on different levels, to minimize glare and spill and to ensure that the lighting does not "flatten" the building.

The lighting comes up at 7pm. Illumination first hits the marble statues at street level, climaxing with the Altar of the Homeland, porticos, and the 45'-high (14m) colonnade. The monument remains fully lit until 8pm, when power is slightly lowered. At 10:30pm another sequence begins, highlighting the architectural features. Final "lights-out" is at 1am.

The most powerful instruments used are two Philips Arena Vision narrow circular beam floodlights with 1,800W metal-halide daylight lamps, used for the Liberty quadriga on the top right of the monument and the Unity quadriga at the top left. Rotational narrow circular, medium, and wide rectangular beam versions of Philips Decoflood instruments are widely used on this project.

The statue of the king on horseback is lit by two symmetrical round beam Bega 8374 floodlights fitted with 400W HPI-T cold light lamps. Three groups of instruments are located behind the parapet of the famous Piazzale del Bollettino, the area in front of the colonnade, with a total of 20 circular beam floods lighting the attic and 20 rectangular beam units focused on the portico's stylobate. Underwater units from Bega light the Vittoriano's pools and fountains.

Thirty-four Philips Tempo 2 MNF 100/150 rectangular beam floodlights fitted with 150W metal-halide lamps are mounted on 17 motorized carriages. These can be run above the piazza for musical and theatrical events that will follow the end of restoration work in time for Rome's year 2000 jubilee.