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.

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Retired Australian Lawyer having worked representing the innocent and the not so innocent in Australia and some of the remote parts of the world and having travelled widely through Europe, Western Russia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Thailand Malaysia Solomon Islands northern China, Hong Kong and the UAE So now that I have the time I am writing about my travels present and past. Hope you enjoy exploring off the beaten track.