Coffers and Oculus of the Pantheon
Pantheon view from Piazza della Rotonda
The Phanteon's cupola from inside
Old Rome is the historic medieval and renaissance center of Rome. While the oldest section of Rome is at the Forum, and the Modern Center has shifted to the Via Veneto, Old Rome remains the city's most charming district, with lovely plazas and streets to wander and find small cafes and restaurants. Old Rome includes the neighborhoods of Navona, Campo de' Fiori, Pantheon, and the Ghetto.
Navona is found on the eastern bank of the River Tiber in the north-west quadrant of the central city, lying opposite the Vatican, and centered on the gorgeous Piazza Navona, the public square from which it derives its name.
The Pantheon neighborhood is named after the district's chief monument, the Pantheon, located on the Piazza della Rotonda.
- Piazza Navona - this elongated public square is without doubt the pride of Baroque Rome, completely unspoilt by traffic and modern buildings. Built over the remains of the late 1st century Stadium of Domitian (explaining its shape), the square is a popular (!) place to sip a cappuccino, shop and watch street performers. Behind the piazza at the northern end, you can still see remains of Domition's chariot racing stadium well below the current ground level. Amongst other monuments, the square features two Baroque masterpieces by Bernini and Borromini:
- Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) - by Bernini, in the very centre of the square, incorporates an Egyptian obelisk and symbolises four of the world's great rivers (the Ganges, the Nile, the Danube and the Plata), representing the four continents known at the time.
- the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone - by Borromini, reputed to be on the spot where St. Agnes was martyred in the fourth century A.D.
- Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor) - at the southern end of the Piazza, designed by Bernini but the main statue of the Moor was done by Giacomo della Porta and the other statues are 19th-century copies of the originals.
- Fontano di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) - a 19th century addition to the square, made to balance the Fontana del Moro
- The Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda - originally built in 27 BCE as a temple to all the gods of the Roman state religion, but has served as a Christian church since the 7th century. It is the only building from the Graeco-Roman world which has remained substantially intact and in continuous use throughout to the present day. The Roman Pantheon has given its name to other monumental buildings in Paris and London, amongst others. The inscription above the entrance to the pantheon reads in English "M. Agrippa Built This" The dome is now the third largest masonry dome in the world. The first is at St. Peter's and the second is at Haggia Sophia.
Campo de' Fiori
If it is sunny, you'll catch a few young people and older gentlemen sitting at the base of a statue in the middle of the open space. The statute is a brooding, hooded Giordano Bruno - an excommunicated Dominican monk burnt at the stake for heresy on this spot on 17 Feb. 1600.
When the sky gets dark and the street lamps go on, the Campo de' Fiori fills with people and lovers wander arm in arm in the crowd. Over the buzzing of conversation and the occasional burst of laughter you may hear a young vocalist belt out O Sole Mio at the top of his lungs as change plunks into his accordion case.
Wander the stalls of the Campo de' Fiori market. From farm fresh vegetables to spices to kitchen implements - it is a colorful and busy place.
Campo de' Fiori is one of the oldest open air markets in Rome. The day starts as early as 3:30 AM, when the first "fruttivendolo" drive up, and by 8 AM, under wide umbrellas, tables overflow with an abundance of brightly colored fruit and vegetables. Organically home-grown by people who have, more often than not, been farming for generations.
At East end, near one of the best sandwich shops in all of Rome, is the flower stand absolutely bursting in color and fragrance.
The "Campo" is filled with tourists, locals, families, school groups and musicians until 3 PM, when the booths are taken down, packed in to cars, carts and trucks with the produce and driven away.
Later a loud, white, behemoth of a street cleaner sweeps through the square, cleaning up left over greens, wrappers and trash.
- There is a McDonalds with what must be the best view in the city - across the Piazza to the Pantheon and rotunda.
- Aristocampo, on the closest corner opposite the Drunken Ship, offers delicious sandwiches, while Egyptian-owned Pyramid, in a side lane past the Drunken Ship towards Piazza Farnese, has nice felafel, kebab and shishtaouk sandwiches.
- Cooking for yourself. In Campo de' Fiori you won't have any trouble finding local food shops and there's also a food market right in the square in the morning. Cooking at home is cheap.
- For lunch in Campo de' Fiori try the Forno di Campo de' Fiori, a traditional bread shop that makes one of the best kinds of pizza bread in Rome. With your back to the Giordano Bruno statue in the middle of the square, the Forno is at the bottom of the square to the left.
There are many bars (coffee shops), gelaterias, and shops in and around the piazza.
Among the two most popular bars in Campo de' Fiori, particularly for American backpackers and exchange students, are Sloppy Sam's and the Drunken Ship. Both are nice for a quiet afternoon drink but are usually quite noisy at night, with specials most nights to encourage business.
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