Centro Storico, the political heart of Rome, does not have much to offer to the casual tourist.
With the nearest Metro station (Barberini) 800m away, the flocks that thronged Rome daily would have given this area a miss if not for this one site that is Emperor Hadrian's legacy.
The Pantheon, a temple built in 120 A.D. by Hadrian, is rather well preserved given that it's just 40 years younger than the Colosseum. In a timeline that is measured by thousands of years, four decades becomes comparatively insignificant.
The only thing that sets it apart from all the other monuments built in that era, which have all since bite the dust, is the fact that the Pantheon has been consecrated as a church since 608 A.D. Since then it has been maintained Christians who still attend regular services up till this day. But that was after much of the marble that once adorned the exterior were stripped under the pretext of developing the rest of the city.
Like all other churches, the admission is free. Visitors, when they first stepped in, were all awed by the interior of the dome. I actually sat in a corner for a few moments and observed that. It was rather amusing to see people streaming in with their mouths gapped opened.
What's interesting is that the dome, if built by modern concrete, would never stand. Using some clever techniques that blended in the design, the Romans architects managed to reduced its weight. Two of the more apparent being the inclusion of an occulus (essentially a huge hole) at the top of the dome and the many indentations in the dome superstructure.
You can get an audio guide a few right of the entrance. Like most hiring services, you'll need to surrender some form of identification (driving license, passport etc.), so don't leave your hotel without one. Also, note that Raphael Sanzio's tomb can be found within Pantheon as well.
Chiesa di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, a 13th century Gothic church, is a mere 50m walk from the Pantheon. If you're in the area, be sure to drop in for brief visit.
If you've not visited the Vatican, which I suggest that you leave till the last day in Rome, you'll be suitably impressed by Santa Maria's interior. With a seemingly, inconspicuous exterior facade, the fresco that adorned the interior is a sight to behold.
Piazza Navona is 250m due west of the Pantheon. The 300 year old market square is filled with artists peddling their wares. You might find it interesting that it was built on a stadium that once housed 30,000. In a city as old as Rome, it's difficult not to build over some previous structures.
Nothing much here really. In fact, we were more entertained by this rather constipated looking Statue of Liberty. If you happen to be in the area, just drop him some loose change, will you?
It was a short day for us and we had quite abit of rest that evening. But it didn't prepared us for our ardous trip to the Vatican the next day. Stay tuned.
Why not read these as well?
Rome (1/5) - the capital of the civilized world
Rome (2/5) - Colosseum and the Old Rome
Rome (4/5) - Vatican City, the Papal kingdom
Rome (5/5) - Final words...
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