Just so you know the roads in Rome are narrow and twisty with lots of room for error and that is exactly what happened when I was trying to navigate us to the Pantheon. Turns out instead I steered us to the Altare della Patria,
which is large and beautiful memorial to the first king of the unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, and was began in 1885. It is a good thing I made this mistake because it let us run into the Largo di Torre Argentina. We were just strolling down the street and I saw some columns in the middle of a square. Turns out four temples from the Republican Era (4th-1st century BC) were discovered in 1927. Besides the antiquity of the site, turns out that this is where Julius Caesar was murdered.
We finally found the Pantheon and it did not disappoint. This Roman temple to all the Roman gods was built in 118AD and is the best preserved of all the ancient Roman buildings and is still the largest dome in the world. Did you know that the center of the dome is open? It is pretty cool seeing the sun shine in or when it rains seeing the water fall inside the center of the building. The Pantheon has been in continuous use since it was built and from the 7th century on is home to the church of St. Mary and the Martyrs. Interestingly the sides and back have a retaining wall up to 30 feet high around them. This is due to the fact that the street level has risen over the last 2000 years.
By the time our exploring Rome took us to Piazza Navona it was evening and so we chose to grab some dinner (check out the streets behind the plaza instead of on the plaza to save money and find better food), but not before checking out the plaza itself. Turns out this is the site of the Stadium of Domitian built in the 1st century AD and somehow over the next 14 centuries the area has keep the shape of the stadium until the plaza was built in the 1650’s. You can still see part of the ancient stadium behind the north end of the plaza, but the Colosseum is a much better example. In the middle of the plaza you will find the wonderful fountain by Bernini called Fountain of the Four Rivers (see cover photo). At either end of the plaza there are fountains designed by Porta in 1575. Fountain of the Moor, to which Bernini added the moor in the center in 1673, is on the south side and Fountain of Neptune is on the north end.
I am going to fudge the details of our exploring Rome day a little bit in order to tell you about Melek’s favorite spot, since we actually saw it the night before. Castel Sant Angelo is one of the best places to see the sunset as it goes right behind St Peter’s Basilica. Originally it started off as Hadrian’s mausoleum in 134AD, but it was turned into a fort in 401. By the 14th century it was turned into a castle for the Pope and there is a protected walkway connecting it to the Vatican. The original structure is the circular portion of the building.
I hope you have enjoyed reminiscing about our day long stroll through the heart of Rome. If you come back next time I will be talking about the different settings in the movie Angels & Demons and what the producers got wrong with each location.