Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Dome

Today--my last day in Italy--I visited the Pantheon, a marvel of ancient architecture. Built almost 2,000 years ago, it includes a huge rotunda capped by a coffered, concrete dome with a central, circular opening to the sky (top photo). It is the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome, and is still well-preserved. Since the 7th Century, it has been a Catholic church, known as Santa Maria Rotunda, but it was built long before that.

It is unique and simply amazing!

The area around the Pantheon is a pleasant one to stroll about. I had lunch (panini) sitting on the steps of the fountain in the piazza, watching people from literally all over the world and listening to the street musicians--some of whom were quite good. The narrow, winding, cobblestone streets spreading from the piazza are filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants of various scales.

I made my way over to the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Baroque church built in the 17th Century. I was stuck by the amount of marble in this church, and the number and elegance of its side altars.

After that I walked over to the Piazza del Quirinale, which includes the palace for the president of Italy, and the Scuderie del Quirinale museum, which is currently featuring a very popular Caravaggio exhibit. Unfortunately, I was not able to go in; advance tickets are sold out, and daily admission requires very long waits in line. Several hundred people were waiting in line outside the museum when I went by.

The Fountain of Trevi is nearby, so I went over to flip in a coin. On the long walk back to Sant' Anselmo, I passed by the imposing Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (the first king of a unified Italy). It is so large that it can be seen from many vantage points in Rome (second photo).

All in all, a good day. During my visit, I have covered quite a bit of Rome on foot (yesterday, I walked back from the Pope's General Audience at St. Peter's along the Tiber River to Sant'Anselmo).

Incidentally, near the Trevi Fountain, I saw a young man wearing a Toledo Mud Hens T-shirt. Naturally, I inquired about it. He is from Luckey, Ohio, about 20 miles north of my hometown of Findlay! We reminisced briefly about old Ned Skeldon Stadium, and then went our separate ways, an ocean apart (and then some) from Northwest Ohio.

Tomorrow (Friday), I take the train back to Einsiedeln in Switzerland, where I will be the majority of my time in Europe. I am looking forward to it!

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