Thursday, October 15th, 2009
The next day in Rome we started out early, our first stop being The Pantheon. Wow, what a place!
Built more than 1800 years ago, the magnificent Pantheon building still stands as a reminder of the great Roman empire. The building’s dome, more than 43 meters high is most impressive. It was the largest dome in the world until 1436 when the Florence Cathedral was constructed. At the top of the dome is a large opening, the oculus, which was the only source of light. Originally a temple for all pagan gods, the temple was converted into a church in 609. The Pantheon contains the tombs of Raphael and of several Italian Kings. Its interior design contrast with the temple’s structural design, but the marble floor still features the original Roman design.
We listened in on someone else’s tour with yet another great tour guide. This is an amazing place. The magnificence of everything is overwhelming and the close proximity of so many great things to see at one time is a travelers dream.
Next we headed to the Piazza Navona, one of the most famous and arguably the most beautiful of Rome’s many squares. The large and lively square features no less than three magnificent fountains. The square is built on the former Domitian’s stadium, built by emperor Domitian in 86 AD, hence the long, oval shape of the square.
The main attraction of the Piazza Navona are the three fountains. The central and largest fountain is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (fountain of the four rivers). The fountain features four figures, each representing a river from a different continent – the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio della Plata. The statues are at the base of a rock supporting an obelisk, originally located at the Massenzio Circus. The two other fountains on the piazza are the Fontana di Nettuno (Neptune fountain) at the northern end and the Fontana del Moro (Moor fountain) at the southern end. The Piazza Navona is situated in the historic center of Rome, west of the Pantheon. It is one of Rome’s liveliest squares, with many outdoor cafes, restaurants and night clubs in the neighborhood. We stopped for an incredible casual lunch at a restaurant named Culda Sac for another mixed cheese board and arugula salads….YUM!
Fountain of Four Rivers
Fontana di Nettuno
Our lunch at Culda Sac
Katie and I decided to venture over to St. Peters Basilica even though everyone kept telling us it would be closed for the holiday. We thought we could at least peek in the windows. When we arrived we found they were letting people in, but not in The Sistine chapel. I had heard from my friend Carrie who had been there earlier in the summer that they will not let you in unless your skirt or shorts are long enough and more importantly your shoulders are covered. Since I thought everything was closed and it was over 100 degrees…my shoulders were not covered. Thankfully I had a little bandanna that I had been dipping in the cool fountain water. I spread it out over my shoulders like a mini shawl and the entrance guard bought it and let us pass. What a grand place. All the marble that had been stripped from the ancient Rome buildings is now there. Beautiful paintings, statues and altars.
St. Peter’s Basilica
This great building is the center of Christianity. The opulence of the building’s interior bears testimony to the wealth of the Catholic Church in the 16th century. The building itself is truly impressive. The largest church in the world, it has a 218 meter long nave. The basilica’s dome, designed by Michelangelo is the largest dome in the world measuring 42m in diameter and reaching 138 meter high (more than 450ft). The interior, which includes 45 altars, is decorated by many famous artists. Some of the most important works in the church are the Pietà by Michelangelo, the papal altar by Bernini, the Throne of St. Peter – also by Bernini – and the Monument to the Stuarts by Canova. The opulent interior can be visited daily for free although a strict dress code is enforced.
When we were done here we finally broke down and took a taxi back toward our hotel, stopping at a large outdoor fountain where we rested and soaked our feet. Many people we there doing the same. It was so refreshing and a much needed relief from the soaring temperature.
Cooling our feet
Others cooling off
As usual we rested and went to another great dinner and to bed early, for the last leg of our journey to Budapest would start early the next day.