Piazza Navona and The Pantheon

So after hitch hiking to another hostel with a bunch of Aussies and pretending I was a guest so that I could bunk there for the night, I woke up pretty fuzzy headed. When I looked out the window I could see the bridge and Castel San Angelo (which I had walked past on my way to Vatican city) so I knew I was pretty damn far from The Yellow.

The Aussies had a flight to catch to Portugal in an hour. I joined them to grab a coffee to go from the cafe across the road, handed to us in plastic cups with a lid made of tin foil to keep warm, so I assume the local places aren’t big on takeaway.

I flagged down a cab, and as we drove down the cobbled streets with the radio blaring, the taxi driver read a newspaper, the whole thing unfolded over the wheel, as he drove! Surprisingly, it cost me less than €12.00 so generally less expensive than cabs in England.

I shuffled up the stairs to my dorm at about 11am and crashed out for a long nap, and after that a blissful shower and a late lunch before setting out to The Pantheon.

I was a little tired and my feet were pretty achey from previous days of walking for hours in sandals (lesson learnt!) so I decided to get a bus from Termini station.

I couldn’t figure out what route I was supposed to get, and there were quite a few buses. I bought a ticket (a return for all of about €2.00) but all I could get out of the vendor was which number bus to take and no indication of what stop I needed to get off at.

So I jumped on the bus and made a complete guess, judging the distance by places I had seen on other days whilst walking around the city.

I got off at a random stop outside of a church, and sat on a bench with map in hand, glancing at signs trying to figure out where the heck I was.

I wasn’t sure which direction to head in, but I noticed a sign on the wall opposite the church saying “Piazza Navona” which I had seen on lists of things to do in Rome and according to my map, was not very far from what I was looking for.

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So I followed the sign, down quite a few narrow streets, some where the buildings where close to touching and obstructed the sunlight to cast shadows over the cobbles. Cascades of shrubbery hung from windows with the shutters thrown open.

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Piazza Navona was built on the site of the Domitian Stadium where the ancient Romans would watch athletic contests.

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In the centre of the piazza stands the famous “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi” (fountain of the four rivers) crafted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Bernini was a major figure in the world of architecture and the leading sculptor or his age. He is credited with creating the Baroque style, further examples of which can be found all over the city of Rome.

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Also located in the piazza is the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone (another example of Baroque architecture, but lead by Bernini’s contemporary/rival Francesco Borromini) the Pamphili Palace, the church of Rostra Signora del Sacro Cuore, and two other notable fountains – Fontana del Moro (Moor or “African” Fountain) and Fontana del Neptune (fountain of Neptune).

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Both of these fountains were sculpted by Giacomo della Porta, later added to by Bernini and Antonio Della Bitta.

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Piazza Navona is really quite pretty, and a perfect place to sit in the sun and people watch. Artists sat in the sun selling their paintings, I passed many Gelaterias tempting you with every flavour under the sun.

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I made my way down a few more narrow streets, passing beautiful little restaurants, columns and sculptures embedded in street walls before arriving at the Pantheon…

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The Pantheon is a religious building and the best preserved ancient Roman monument hat has stood for apx. 1,890 years, although built on the site of an older structure that had stood there previously and been destroyed.

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The inscription above the columns “It was built by Marcos Agrippa in his third consulate” is the only remaining indication of the temple that stood there prior.

The current structure was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian in 120 AD. According to some legends, the site of The Pantheon is where Romulus (the mythological founder of Rome) ascended to heaven.

The inscription above the columns “It was built by Marcos Agrippa in his third consulate” is the only remaining indication of the previous structure.

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The Corinthian columns were transported from Egypt, dragged on wooden sledges for roughly 100km to the river Nile, where they were floated by barge to be loaded onto vessels which then crossed the Mediterranean sea.

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Inside, the only forms of natural light come from the large doorway and the hole in the Dome, known as “The eye of the Pantheon” or “the oculus”.


Like a clock, there stands an altar at the back of the room, and then evenly spaced are columns, statues and paintings around the circular room. The Pantheon is often likened to a large scale sun dial, the shaft of light through the oculus shifting at different times of the day.


Also housed in the Pantheon are the “Ossa et cineres,” (bones and ashes) of the great artist Raphael (link see post on Vatican for frescoed Raphael rooms), along with the remains of his finance, whom died before they could marry.
On his sarcophagus, an inscription reads:

“LLE HIC EST RAPHAEL TIMUIT QUO SOSPITE VINCI / RERUM MAGNA PARENS ET MORIENTE MORI.”
(i)Here lies Raphael, by whom the mother of all things (Nature) feared to be overcome while he was living, and while he was dying, herself to die.

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(You can view my post on the Vatican city here which features some of Raphael’s most famous work)

After marvelling at the Pantheon and spending some time wandering around the room, I eventually headed back. I walked for a little while then remembered I had my return bus pass, and so waited at the nearest stop and hopped on, giving my feet a rest as I watched life go by.

When I got back to The Yellow, I bumped in to F who said that he and his new dorm mate R, were going out for dinner for his last meal in Rome.

I hadn’t set foot in my dorm before I turned around and headed back down the street with them.

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There was a restaurant they wanted to try, but no tables immediately available when we arrived. We went for drinks round the corner, trying and unanimously deciding that Lemonicello was not our favourite drink.

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We headed back down the steps and to a table outside, where we ordered a sharing platter to start, and then our mains. F went for lasagne which he said was the best he had had whilst in Rome, I went for a seafood linguine which was nice but not anything that I was amazed by, and R went for?

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We shared a bottle of red and chatted, before ordering desert, which I initially felt I couldn’t manage but the pan cotta sounded very appealing and the guys were egging me on.

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After that, we returned to the yellow bar for drinks, and later (after the food had gone down) a dance, before I headed to bed and slept like a log.

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

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