[ROME, ITALY] — The Pantheon, one of the great wonders of the world and certainly my favorite building of all time. Every time I come back to Rome, the first thing I have to do is to go and see and touch this magical place.

I’ve been inside The Pantheon at least fifty times and it never gets old. Even though… you know… it’s really old.

Started by my friend Emperor Augustus and rebuilt after a fire by Big Builder Hadrian in 126AD. Most other big domes are actually made of stacked stone, using gravity to hold them in place, like on a Roman bridge, or supported by metal or other reinforcements.

This is like poured concrete, way ahead of its time and continues to be the largest unreinforced concrete building in the world — more than two thousand years later.

The Most Beautiful Building In The World

Lots has been written about this wonderful place, so you don’t need me to go on and on here. Here’s just a bunch of photos, in homage. But if you’re in Rome, you need to go here several times, so you can experience the changing light from morning to night. And if you’re lucky, catch a rain shower coming through the open-air oculus.

The Pantheon Rome

It was originally a Roman Temple praising all the Roman gods (hence pan-theon), each god with their own nook, but in the 7th Century they swapped out the statuary and added an altar and called it a church! It’s been in continuous use ever since. It’s considered one of the best preserved Roman buildings in the world.

Pantheon pediment
Pantheon column detail

Check out another post I did about this cool hotel with your room looking right at the Pantheon.

The Hidden Design Motif of The Pantheon

Romans were some of the greatest engineers in history… way ahead of their time… and to think, not even a calculator!

Most people just swarm into The Pantheon with crowds, look up at the hole for fifteen minutes and leave. But look closely and you’ll notice the repeating motif of a sphere ⚫️ inside of a square ⬛️ — all throughout this marvelous building, from its architectural shape to the outside to the tile patterns under your feet.

It starts with the inside, where a perfect sphere would fit inside the dome, from floor to oculus. Imagine a balloon inside the great dome, it’s 43m top-to-bottom and side-to-side. You can also see how the thickness changes from the bottom of the dome to the top, so it gets lighter are it gets to the top.

Pantheon sphere

You can see the circle/square pattern repeated all throughout the building. In floor tile patterns, on the walls, even the traffic bollards out front.

Inside The Pantheon

Wait, there’s more! That coffered ceiling isn’t just pretty, but that’s how they could make the dome so big without reinforcement. The coffers actually give structure and rigidity, but the hollowness makes the roof lighter. And the dome gets thinner as it moves up towards the oculus — it’s 21ft thick at the base and only 3 and half feet at the top! And they invented concrete, using different aggregate; heavy travertine at the bottom and mixing in lighter stone like pumice and tufa towards the top. There was a study that said if they used the same aggregate the whole way up, the dome would be 80% heavier.

The oculus is there to add strength, not just a sunroof. That area would typically be the weakest part of a dome, but the ring adds structure and the hole lightens the weight by not being there. God, so brilliant they thought of this two thousand years ago.

Pantheon Dome
Pantheon crowds

Piazza della Rotonda — One of the Best Piazzas in Rome

The Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome. Not just a tourist trap — although you’ll see millions of tourists — it’s is an everyday place for Romans to meet, eat and socialize.

Some of Rome’s best restaurants are all around the Pantheon. Here’s another list from Culture Trip. Everyone raves about Roscioli and Armando al Pantheon. It’s just fantastic to sit at one of the cafes at night and just drink it all in. And definitely go get Rome’s best gelato at Giolitti around the corner.

View of Pantheon
Polizia in front of Pantheon

Plan Your Visit To The Pantheon

Rome now restricts the number of people entering The Pantheon and you have to have reservations to get inside so plan ahead. Here’s the site where you can do that. You can also book through a private tour with companies like Viator. Here’s the office Roma Tourism website page on The Pantheon. And here’s a Rick Steve’s Forum on the ticket situation.

More Information About Rome, Food and the Pantheon

The best private guide in Rome Agnes Crawford, every hotelier and luxury travel agent raves about her, so be sure to book far in advance. I read her super informative Instagram posts every day. She has a cracker website called Understanding Rome and even has her own podcasts. Next time I go to Rome I’m going to book her.

If you want to try a food tour, check out this site. Here is Eater’s 38 Essential Restaurants in Rome. And her is Conde Nast Traveler’s best places to eat in Rome.

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