Okay, nobody correctly identified the building with the hole in the roof. Or at least nobody posted or emailed me a correct answer.
Pantheon is made up of two Greek words, pan which means everything and teon which means divine. It, supposedly, was built as a temple to all Roman gods.
A bit of history. It was originally built in about 26 BC by Agrippa who was the admiral of the fleet that defeated the fleets of Mark and Cleo in the Battle of Actium. This victory consolidated Rome under Octavian who went on to become Caesar Augustus and the owner of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
Agrippa was Octavian's son-in-law so I guess he got to build things whenever he wanted to. Sadly, the Pantheon burnt down in a huge fire in 80 AD and was totally rebuilt during Emperor Hadrian's reign. In 609 AD the Emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV who converted it into a Christian church. This, probably, is what saved the building when so many other ancient ruins were pretty much destroyed to provide building materials for more modern structures. It was never abandoned and was always actively used as a church.
It is a very nice building and was probably my favorite touristy spot. One reason was that it was fairly small so you could take it all in rather quickly. The other was that it is nice and cool inside. That is because of the way it was designed, really an impressive architectural feat.
An Interior Shot
Later that evening the Mysterious Chinese Woman and I took advantage of the free hotel shuttle that drops you off by The Vatican and a nearby subway. We took the subway to a stop we had seen from our tour bus earlier in the day, an area that looked interesting with a lot of cute restaurants.
Note to self, a lot of clustered cute restaurants in Rome tends to mean touristy.
Right by the subway stop was a pleasant looking outdoor cafe where we decided to have a glass of wine before scouting out the neighborhood.
A Toast To Tourism
The wine was decent and the waiter friendly. He graciously took our picture and then pretended to pocket our camera. Hah Hah, what a card, laughed so hard I snorted. About as funny as the guy in last night's restaurant who pretended to drop your camera while holding on to the strap. There must be a school for funny camera tricks that these guys go to.
We walked around the neighborhood a bit and finally decided that the restaurant right across from where we had our wine looked good. It was all glass enclosed and was affiliated with la baita.
Diners In Glass Restaurants
The food was prepared in the building across the sidewalk from it and then carried over. I wish I could say that the food was good, but, sadly, that wasn't the case. I started out with an octopus salad and really had a salad with small whole octopus in mind. What I got instead was some kind of an octopus headcheese. Not really very appetizing.
One of the things that made me choose this place, other than the location, was that I saw someone eating what looked to be a nice steak. That was what I ordered and it was one of the toughest I have ever been served in a restaurant. On the other hand, the pistachio gelato that I had for dessert was very good and the portion was large.
The waitress was very nice though and gently recommended a different wine then the one I had originally selected. Apparently my choice was kind of a lightly carbonated dessert wine. I bet it would have tasted like Ripple, still one of my all time favorites.
Drinking The Good Stuff
Despite the disappointing food it was a pleasant enough place to sit and spend part of an evening just watching the passing scene.
Watching The World Go By
And it was certainly easy enough to catch a subway back to our hotel shuttle. All and all it was a very nice evening and our meal probably cost less per person than what the Equally Mysterious Sister paid for a bowl of soup back at the hotel.
The next day we finally started to move off the beaten track a bit, as you shall see.