“Angelic, not human design”… Those were the words used by one of the greatest artistic geniuses of all times, Michelangelo, to describe the beauty and grandeur of the Pantheon. Those words ring true even today, almost 2000 years after its construction. When it was first built, the Pantheon was a temple dedicated “to all gods”, the Ancient Greek meaning of the words Pan (for all) and Theion (for gods). After centuries of being visited and used, it remains as majestic as it was at the beginning of its life.
A bit of history…
The construction of the Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa to replace a previous temple during the reign of Augustus, founder and first Emperor of the Roman Empire (from 26 BC to 14 AD). After it was destroyed by fire in 80, it was rebuilt by Domitian, only to be struck by lightening and burned down in 110. The exact date of the beginning of the construction of the third Pantheon still remains unclear, but some argue that it probably started during the reign of Emperor Trajan (from 98 to 117 AD) and ended in 125 under the rule of Hadrian. As it was customary practice for Hadrian to dedicate the monuments he reconstructed in the name of the original builder, the inscription on the temple’s façade reads “M. AGRIPPA L.F. COS TERTIUM FECIT” which translates to “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, three times consul made this”.
From the Barberini subway station, a 15 minute walk will get you to the Pantheon. Otherwise, you can also catch any of the many buses that pass on Via del Corso and hop off near the intersection of Via del Corso with Via di Pietra. Walking from there to the Pantheon, you’ll pass by a beautiful square, definitely worth pausing at, Piazza di Pietra. If you are already in the Piazza Navona area, less than 5 minutes of walking will take you to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is the only monument in Rome which, to this day, remains almost unchanged from the time it was declared completed. It is still one of the world’s best preserved ancient monuments. This spectacular display of Roman architectural and engineering genius will leave anyone completely awestruck at the mere sight of it. The structural integrity of the monument makes it possible for visitors to truthfully experience what it must’ve been like to breathe Rome some 2000 years ago… How is that for a reason to visit the Pantheon! Not to mention that its dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome with 43,2 m of diameter, which is also the height to the oculus, the opening at the top of the structure.
The Pantheon can be admired from the outside at all hours of the day. You can sit and marvel at it from the low wall which surrounds it, from the steps of the Fontana del Pantheon in the center of the square or from any of the restaurants on Piazza della Rotonda. You can also visit the inside of the majestic structure from Monday to Saturday from 8:30 to 19:30 and on Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00. Make sure to check the opening hours during bank holidays as they may vary.
Nice monument… Now where can I eat?
The neighborhood of the Pantheon is one which offers an abundance of delicious eateries, from traditional Italian cooking to very high end fusion style cuisine. There are also plenty of options for a quick slice of pizza, an aperitivo, a coffee and some gelato. For lunch or supper, head to Er Faciolaro, a few meters from the Pantheon, to enjoy a wide selection of Italian classics. Aperitivo takes a whole new meaning, with delicious finger food and nice drinks, at Salotto 42. Have coffee at a Roman institution, Caffè Sant’Eustachio, possibly one of the best coffees you’ll ever have! And end the day with a dessert or a gelato at Giolitti, Rome’s oldest ice cream parlor, a not-to-miss address.
What is the Pantheon up to today?
The Pantheon still stands proudly. Unlike some of the other monuments around Rome’s historic center, it is completely unobstructed by ugly scaffolding. It remains easy to visit during opening hours and always available to be admired from the square.