The Retirees Go Abroad – Finding the Pantheon


Kerry has got through the night and her headache has passed. Once again another bright sunny day but our passes have expired. However we have learned the mechanics of the bus and metro and have some idea of the layout of the old city so fearless and undaunted by hot weather we plan to visit the Pantheon, but before doing so to visit the Prison of St Peter and Vittoriano.

However we started the day by visiting a fashion market just off Via Cavour, the name of which I can give but it exact location I have not recorded so unfortunately readers you may have to explore and find this one yourselves. Hidden in a very plain, and for Rome an undistinguished building was Mercato Monti Urban Market, a small alternate studio of individual designers and makers of alternate fashions. One was Eliodoro Benelli (also alternate – batted for the other team) who makes jewellery with fabric. We also spotted some of Rome” Bridges and journeyed to an island in the river Isola Tiberina. One bridge sits behind another destroyed bridge and the other includes a flood warning device; a hole and when the river starts to fill the hole it is time to leave Rome. Exploring the major building on the island we found ourselves in the maternity ward of a local hospital. We just walked in off the street and there we were in the queue for new mothers. We backed out very quickly.

It was a brief visit to Mercato Monti Urban Market fortunately. It seemed very popular based on the number of visitors whilst we were there.

We returned to the task at hand – finding the Prison of St Peter. He is said to have been crucified upside down as he did not wish to try and emulate the crucifixion of his Lord. Carcere Di san Pietro (Mamertino) can be found between the Arch of Septimus Severus and Vittoriano in a minor street marked on my map in size 2 font so it cannot be read (even with a magnifying glass) by the elderly. So once again you may have to do some research to find this but the two landmarks should fix it pretty clearly for you.

Our Omnia card gained us free entry and a tour of the Prison. You may recall that I passed comment in an earlier blog that I thought the Omnia Pass may have been a business project of the Vatican. Well here is where I felt this confirmed. The tour was almost a sales pitch for Christianity and a rededication to the faith. Very little about the building itself, its occupant and the fate of St Peter.

According to tradition, the prison was constructed around 640-616 BC, by Ancus Marcius. It was originally created as a cistern for a spring in the floor of the second lower level. Prisoners were lowered through an opening into the lower dungeon. For more on the history of this prison I suggest you visit

It has been a cistern, a place of detention before execution, then a prison, then a church. What a mix. By the way Romans did not have prisons. There was no sentence for custodial terms under Roman law so if you ended up in Mamertine you were going to die.

There was a part of the tour where images of rocks spoke to us about the history but the remainder was far more to do with spiritual matters and whilst I had no objection to this presentation it was not what either of us expected nor wanted.

We walked back toward Via Dei Fori Imperiall and found the junction stairs to Vittoriano and its war museum. The Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) or “Il Vittoriano” is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy and contains the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were not interested in going through the museum we were interested in the building itself. I suspect the museum would be very interesting historically but there is only so much history to put into a holiday. It was lunch time so we went upstairs to the restaurant on what we thought was the roof only to find another few stories above accessed by an external elevator with a queue. So we grabbed some lunch. It was extremely hot and the Italians thought they had this beat by using a water mist injector on their fans. Maybe it worked we don’t know as we did not get the benefit but one table of tourists found the negative when the water line broke and they got a shower instead of a mist.

So we caught the elevator along with plenty of other sweating tourists and got to the roof viewing platform. We were now on top of Rome. In the photos you will see a hole being dug below the Vittoriano. These excavations can take place anywhere as the whole city sits atop ruins of civilisations going back thousands of years.

We then decided to find the Pantheon. This took us on foot through some more of Rome’s little streets and Piazzas. On the way we encountered another dirty edifice hiding a beautiful church. Clearly one of the bishops this church ended up a Pope as the Papal insignia appears on the face of it and inside is just indescribable from the point of view that this is just one of many and yet it is remarkable. I just cannot understand how so much money could be spent on these monuments to the institution and the man rather than the purpose.

The Pantheon popped up before us unexpectedly. We were so used to being lost that it surprised us to find our target. This is unusual in that is somewhat plain. The Pantheon, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) and rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft.). It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” but informally known as “Santa Maria Rotonda”. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda. To read more visit,_Rome.the Piazza was alive with tourists so finding somewhere to sit in the shade and rest the feet was quite a challenge.Litter lay everywhere and weeds grew through cracks in the fence and paving. Entry was free and it was quite chaotic with tourists bumping and clicking all around.

In this building is the tomb of that famous Renaissance artist Raphael.

Fatigue set in and we made our way to the Metro and then to the Jolly Pizza for a warm meal a bottle of water and then to sleep.

The Retirees Go Abroad – Closed Mondays


We have been really blessed with the weather. Overnight it has been very gusty with storms in some places but the wind has cleared the clouds leaving an azure blue sky and a throbbing Sun promising another warm day.

Breakfast has been the same all week – cereal (corn flakes or corn flakes), juice, sugary pastries, bread and ham, bread and condiments, a toast type biscuit, coffee (or at least it was advertised as such) and tea. Not a lot to choose from but we are travelling on a budget and we will make up for choice during the day. Even so the biscuits pack easily into your back pack and are tasty to fill in during the day. So each day we have grabbed some packets of these biscuits and a bottle of water (don’t forget the water fountains in Rome).

Our plan today was to visit two museums at Repubblica; Museo Nazionale Romano – Palazzo Massimo and Museo Nazionale Romano Terme Di Dioclezino. The National Roman Museum is a museum, with several branches in separate buildings throughout the city of Rome, Italy. We were looking to visit the two at Repubblica – The Baths of Diocletian, which currently houses the Epigraphic and the Proto-historic sections of the modern Museum, while the main collection of Ancient Art which is currently housed in the nearby Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. For more on the National Museums of Roman a visit to will be helpful.

We caught the bus and metro as usual alighting at Repubblica (the next stop from Terminii). Once again directions by street sign was hopeless. The most obvious entrance to one of the Museums appeared to be a church. How did I know it was a church – it had a bloody great big cross and a beggar out front (the beggar was the giveaway). The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs (Bascilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri) is a church built inside the Baths of Diocletian in the Piazza della Repubblica. When we entered the first thing I saw was this sign “Shorts not permitted”. Well of course I was in shorts, so Kerry ventured on.

As I stood beside the front door a tour group came through the door and some of the men were in shorts like me. One fellow immediately engaged the tour guide in conversation and from the gestures it concerned the shorts he was wearing and the sign greeting them as they entered. The tour guide was trying to explain presumably why she did not warn them when a girl probably in her early twenties wearing a pair of shorts that rode up her arse, exposing the cheeks of her bum entered the church. The tour guide pointed her out and although I don’t understand German/Dutch (which ever), she seemed to be identifying that the sign referred to those types of shorts. With that she called to this young woman who when turning displayed the pockets of her shorts hanging below the leg of the shorts and a very large “camel toe” in the crotch of her shorts. She was oriental and did not understand German/Dutch/Italian or English and continued to walk into the church oblivious of the sign and probably quite proud to display her arse and camel toe. It always happens when you have not got the camera ready.

By the time I had witnessed this short pantomime, Kerry had returned speaking about the glory of the church. I asked her if she had observed the “shelia with the camel toe” but she had no idea what I was talking about so we moved on to find the museums.

We decided on the direction to walk based on our tourist map (they are all sooo vague) and ended walking around the block (in sight of the Terminii station – I reckon I could throw a ball from one to the other station) to find the gate to Museo Nazionale Romano Terme Di Dioclezino (the Baths of Diocletian) closed on Mondays. So we moved on to stumble across Museo Nazionale Romano – Palasso Massimo just across the road – closed on Mondays. Aargh!

What do we do now? Consult the map! Map in hand we moved along Via Nazionale to be harassed by a street vendor selling tickets to an Opera. We took the leaflet with plans to visit the theatre presenting the show to see if we wanted to book tickets – only 30 euros each. We consult the map. Change of plan let’s find the main Opera theatre for Rome. We are standing on the corner of Via Nazionale and Via Firenze when we come to this momentous decision and where is the Opera – the intersection of Via Torino, Via Del Viminali and Via Firenze walking distance from Terminii and in the path to Museo Nazionale Romano – Palasso Massimo. So we walk around to Teatro Dell’Opera Di Roma and Rigoletto is opening on October 21, the night before we fly out of Rome. Perfect so we enquire about the tickets at the ticket office. Sure thing we can have tickets starting price up in the nose bleeds is 85 euros, to 150 euros in the boxes. We settle for 2 seats in the right wing on the floor of the theatre. All I can think is that my Dad (a great fan of opera) would be so jealous.

Stumped as to what else I want to do that day Kerry slips in the “shopping expedition”. She has found a shopping tour to a designer outlet. I will give you the web site but here is what it says:

“At Castel Romano Designer Outlet, you can find your favourite designer brands at up to 70% off, all year round. Our beautiful setting, cafes and restaurants, children’s play area, parking and more than 140 boutiques, we offer something for everyone. We have a wide range of stores, ranging from iconic fashion brands like Valentino, Roberto Cavalli, Lacoste and Michael Kors to athletic labels, like Nike and Adidas, and casual favourites, like Guess and Diesel.”

“Castel Romano Designer Outlet, is located just 25 km from the centre of Rome, in the heart of Agro Pontino. It is close to the Tyrrhenian coastline, making it the perfect destination in summer for a day of sun, sea and shopping. The Castel Romano roundtrip shuttle bus service runs every day from the city centre of Rome. ” And it is just 13 euros. As I said I will share the web site so here it is:

Well the trip takes about an hour and if you have tired feet and a bountiful wallet (or in my case a tight fist on the wallet) then for 13 euros each it provides an interesting trip through the Rome that does not excite tourists – the commercial districts. We arrived and it felt like we had gone to a shopping village on the Gold Coast except they spoke Italian. Even the developer seemed un-Italian – McArthur Glen. It certainly has everything to cure you of a shopping itch and some nice eateries as well. So we idled away the afternoon and I got some interesting shots of some of the street furniture.

On the trip home Kerry was determined to get a photo of a building with a heliport on it as it also appeared to have a huge solar panel beside the heliport. I got the giggles and she got her photo.

She also scratched her itch.