Touring Rome Italy - Pantheon

What should we visit in Rome's Pantheon district and its environs?...

We hope that you are enjoying our series of articles and guest articles on Italian tourist attractions, covering the entire country except for its major cities. In a sense we have left the best for last. We will describe what to see in Italy’s great cities neighborhood by neighborhood. You may not realize it, but Rome is divided into 20 districts. And each and every one of these districts boasts its own sightseeing attractions. If you have time, visit them all. In any case, read these articles to help plan your trip to The Eternal City. You may be in for some real surprises. Roma, Non Basta una Vita (Rome, a Lifetime is not Enough) .

The Pantheon district lies in virtually the dead center of Rome. It is named for a temple dedicated to all the gods, built at the command of Emperor Agrippa in 27 B C. This magnificent edifice was rebuilt several times, for example by the famous Emperor Hadrian. During the early days of Christian Rome it was closed but a few centuries later it reopened as a church. The Pantheon boasts the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever constructed. The hole in the dome, sometimes called the “eye of heaven” illuminates the building. At one time the dome was covered in bronze plates that created a celestial glow when reflecting sunlight. Most of the bronze is gone, but you can still admire the original bronze doors. The Pantheon’s chapel contains the tombs of the painter Raphael and that of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy. The Pantheon is surrounded by the Piazza della Rotonda whose centerpieces featuring a Sixteenth Century fountain and a classic Egyptian obelisk.

Piazza della Rotonda, Pantheon Rome

Piazza della Rotonda, Pantheon Rome

Quite nearby is the Piazza della Minerva designed by the famous Bernini. The plaza boasts an elephant holding a small obelisk, said to be the shortest of Rome’s eleven obelisks. In the center of the piazza is the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church built in the Eighth Century over the ruins of a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis, despite its name that refers to the Greek goddess Minerva. Santa Maria is Rome’s only Gothic church and was the site of Galileo’s abjuring of his scientific discoveries on June 22, 1633. Its many works of art make it one of the best “museum churches” in the Eternal City.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church

The Pantheon district is a good place to see some fine palaces. The Palazzo Doria Pamphili in the southern section started in the Fifteenth Century. It hosts a gallery with one of Rome's most distinguished private art collections, including works by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Velasquez, Rubens, and Bernini. It is also home to Rome’s Anglican Centre. The Palazzo Chigi in the north end of this small district dates back to the mid-Sixteenth Century and now belongs to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The Palazzo Montecitorio next door was begun by Bernini in 1650 but completed by Fontana close to 50 years later. It has housed the Chamber of Deputies for over 140 years. The surrounding Montecitorio Square also hosts an Egyptian obelisk.

And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Latium or other Italian wines.

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About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.

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