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Random Roaming in Roma

In my next two posts I will cover the elimination of two more of my bucket list items, the Coliseum and of course Vatican City. Then I will treat you to the best thing I did in Rome, I’ll keep that for a surprise.

This post will ramble around in no particular order and try to tell you in my normal irreverent manner about some of the other cool stuff we saw in Rome.

Rome is a walking town. Nothing is far from anything, and walking is faster than any form of transportation available. When you have a destination to walk to in Rome, you will get sidetracked and hijacked by a myriad of other things you just have to stop and see. There are over three thousand sculptures by just Bernini in this city, many of them fantastic fountains. That 15 minute walk will take an hour and a half, so plan ahead.

Our hotel was right next to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was a Roman temple dedicated to all (pan) the gods (Theos). It was first erected in 27 BC, and after a couple of fires, completely redone by Hadrian in AD 120. It is regarded as the most influential building in art history. The dome was studied by Michelangelo before he designed the dome of the Basilica of St. Peters. It inspired the United States Capitol dome and Thomas Jefferson emulated it when he designed the dome at the University of Virginia.

The Pantheon has a Greek style portico, but behind this is the most amazing feat of ancient architecture in the world.


I took this photo early in the morning before the hordes of tourists showed up. Stand in front of this building long enough and you will probably hear every language known to man. Panlingua? This is the Greco portico, behind it stands arguably the most amazing architectural feat of the ancient world.

The dome of the Pantheon sits on a circular base, and until the renaissance was the highest dome in the world. It is mathematically perfect. It is exactly as high as it is wide, 142 feet. It is made with concrete, which was a Roman invention.

The dome supports itself because it is 23 feet thick at the bottom, and five feet thick at the top. The concrete at the bottom is mixed with travertine, and the top mixed with much lighter pumice. Also, the engineers at the time designed a coffered ceiling to lighten the load.

To top it off is the Oculus. This is an open ceiling, and the Pantheons sole source of light. Yes, it rains in Rome, so the floor of the Pantheon is slightly concave, and a couple dozen barely noticeable holes in the floor drain away whatever rainfall comes through the Oculus.


This is your favorite travel blogger standing under the coffered ceiling with the oculus inside the Pantheon.

oculus sun dial

The oculus, besides providing light for the Pantheon, is also a type of sundial.

The building itself was covered with marble, back before the barbarians came and took it all away. Well, not all of it.  What they did not take was taken by the Vatican to build St. Peters Basilica. This is a recurring theme in Rome. The saying is “What the Barbarians didn’t do, Barberini did” (The Barberinis being a Papal family).

The Pantheon has a few tombs, the most meaningful is the tomb of Raphael. If you are not familiar with Raphael’s bio, you should Google him. An amazing painter and playboy Raphael designed his own tomb for the Pantheon.

Raphels tomb

Raphaels mortal corpse lies here, but his work lives forever. Above him is a statue of Madonna and child which Raphael himself commissioned for his tomb. The inscription in it reads “In life, nature feared to be outdone by him. In death, she feared that she too would die.”
Raphael’s legend as a man-about-town was apparently true, he died in his mid thirties.

I took this shot because I am pretty sure that this marble shows a horned head of a type of god. I cannot find any support for my theory, and the couple of people I talked to who worked there looked at me like I had horns on MY head. But look closely, I think you will see it.

The Pantheon is located next to the Piazza della Rotunda. For two thousand years this has been a gathering place for Romans. For quite some time it was where people came to buy and sell birds, from chickens to parrots. Today, the only Romans around are waiters in the cafes or musicians. We sat in a café (dinner was two individual pizzas and a small bottle of wine, for $75) but we were entertained by a guy singing Frank Sinatra songs one night and another singing opera the next, somehow fitting. The piazza has a nice fountain which is topped by one of the dozens of obelisks stolen from Egypt found all over Rome.

Well, I think it is a good shot anyway.

A short walk from this piazza is the famous Trevi fountain. Made famous by Hollywood, is is truly a magnificent fountain which takes up a city block.

trevi fountain

One of the great works of Bernini, this fountain attracts legions of tourists.

As you can see here, it is a madhouse near the Trevi Fountain.

Throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain

Legend has it that if you toss a coin into this fountain,you will return to Rome. I want to someday (so much more to see) so I got as close as I could and tossed a Euro into it. Every day the city pulls about 3000 euros out of the fountain, for charities around Rome.

Boca de verita

This is Mary Ann and and me with our hands in the Boca de Verita, the Mouth of Truth. Legend has it that if you tell a lie with your hand in the mouth, it will be bitten off. This marble figure has many theories about  it’s origin, the most scholarly dates it to the 4th century B.C. There is no record of it biting anyone, that I know of.. This was supposed to be a “little visited” site in Rome, so we only had to stand in line for about an hour.

My rambling post will end where I had an almost rapturous experience. It is called the Gesu church. It is the center of the Jesuit order, which is a big deal, BIG deal. Including St. Peter’s, I found the Gesu, the most astounding church I saw in Rome. It is not only the epitome of Baroque, it is also the most outlandish example of “in-your-face” wealth I can imagine. I have always said to the Catholic church, sell a gargoyle and feed the poor.  If they sold he statue of St. Ignatius, (unveiled if you click on the link later) they could feed the Sudan for a generation. The entire statue is gold and silver with many many jewels stuck all over it. And St. Ignatius was an advocate of poverty, go figure.

During the counter-reformation the Jesuits led the battle against those galling Protestants for the hearts and minds of Christians. Art was a powerful propaganda weapon. Enormous sculpted murals of religion overthrowing heresy (heresy being the pesky Protestants) told the story the Jesuits needed to teach in an age when only royalty and the priests could read.

But the rapture happens at 5:30 every evening.  (Click HERE for the rapture. This unveiling of St. Ignatius is something that you must see when in Rome. The painting hiding it is of his demise in China when trying to spread the gospel. As it disappears, the music is quite loud. The  faithful cross themselves  cry and kneel, and yours truly snaps fotos, wondering if perhaps I am not on the right bus.

Gesu, rome

After I thought about that for a second, I turned to the window, and I was stricken with this. All I could do was leave, cross the street, and have beer.

OK, faithful readers. My next three posts will be shorter, I promise. If you have not subscribed to my blog, look to the column on the right and do so. I promise you will get raptured by every post you read. Share this with a friend on Facebook, and if you are inspired, make a comment.

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