Well, actually, day two began with a search for a McDonalds (TJ wanted coffee, and for some reason it just had to be McCafé)…but it did lead to a fun little discovery: an unusual gathering of ruins just sitting in the middle of a plaza. Excavations are ongoing but the view is, at least for now, free.
The Sacred Area of Largo Argentina was uncovered during demolition work that had begun in 1926. Four temples are visible today, facing a paved square. The temples, identified as the porticoes of Minucia, were used as distribution centers for grain rationed out to the public, making them a primary point of exchange between the Roman government and her citizens. A brief stop, this particular site would likely have not found its way into this blog post had later research not show that this was the site of Julius Caesar's assassination on March 15th, 44 BC.
Moving along (we shall skip the McDonalds portion of the day, but I assure you it was subpar and, therefore, your typical McDonalds experience), we found ourselves in a bustling plaza ripe with fountains, restaurants, and street vendors.
rks by Bernini that we would see over the course of our vacation, all of them beautiful beyond words.
The fountain played a critical role in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, in which it was listed as one of the Altars of Science (Earth, Air, Fire, Water).
An Egyptian obelisk stands dead center. Many riches were pillaged from Egypt following the war between Octavian and Antony & Cleopatra, and several obelisks litter the modern Roman skyline as a stark reminder of that bloody moment in time. This particular obelisk was repurposed to include the Pamphili family emblem of a dove holding an olive twig. The Pamphili family palace faced onto the plaza, as did the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, of which Pope Innocent X was a member and sponsor, respectively.
Surrounding the obelisk, rocks rise to support river gods that represent major rivers from four continents through which papal authority had spread:
L: Ganges (Asia), R: The Danube (Europe)
L: Río de la Plata (The Americas), R: The Nile (Africa)
We sought refuge in an unassuming little restaurant by the name of Ristorante Vacanze Romane that met our sole requirement: it was open. Imagine our surprise when the most amazing looking, and tasting, food began to arrive.
We dined under the safety of the restaurant's covered patio, which afforded us the continued appreciation of the plaza. And then, like magic, the rain stopped when our tummies were full.
We stopped briefly to appreciate the Fountain of Neptune as we exited the plaza on our way to our next site. TJ pointed and said "I think this one's called 'Get Off My D--k, You Octopus!'"
Yeah. That's really all I have to say about this one. It still makes me giggle when I think about it.
Sixteen corinthian columns adorn the portico leading into the circular building. Inside, the rotunda features a concrete dome with an oculus
From its creation in the ancient world to today's era of modern architectural feats, the Pantheon remains owner of the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome (142 feet from floor to oculus, and 142 feet in diameter).
One of the best preserved of Rome's ancient buildings, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church since the 7th century. It is the final resting place of Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, both kings of Italy, as well as the famed Renaissance painter Raphael.
It was one of the most beautiful, ornate buildings I have ever seen. Despite it's small, simple, and open nature (it's a single room supported by columns) I found it very easy to get lost. Looking up, down, and all around, it took me a while to realize that I had no idea where TJ was. I finally found him, also lost in thought, sitting on a bench looking towards the altar.
The Pantheon is a part of a "bulk offering" of UNESCO World Heritage sites that includes the Forums and Trajan's Column, which we had seen the previous day. The whole thing is listed by UNESCO as "Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura." That just rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?
An estimated $4,000 USD makes its way into the fountain DAILY. Caritas, a Roman Catholic charity, uses the coins to fund a supermarket and other programs for low income families.
(€ 8,50) unless you've just got to see it because you once saw a television program about it. Since I called TJ out for currency confusion in my last post, I feel it only fair to note that when I went to pay I handed the cashier twenty shekels and he looked at me as if I was the stupidest person he'd seen all day.
Our final stop of the day wasn't so much a stop as it was a second refuge from a late afternoon mini-storm. Rome's Palace of Justice sits at the head of the Piazza die Tribunali, and if you ever find yourself seeking a dry spot in the shadow of a building that contains no awnings but is so tall that it acts as an umbrella anyway, then you could do far worse than finding one across the street from this beauty. The storm only lasted a few minutes, but we spent the entire time gawking at this architectural marvel, built between 1888 and 1910. Being a Sunday, the building was closed for the public.
All there was to do was admire the outside, and then turn around and see the aforementioned double rainbow, which brings us full circle and to a lovely stopping place.