September 10th through September 16th

We arrived in Rome on Saturday, September 8th. The next day we went down to the local newsstand and purchased transit passes – one for each of us. The passes cost 30 Euros each and enable us to ride all buses, metros and trams without additional charge for the rest of September. Best money we’ve spent in a long time. We ride the transit often, several times each day if not more. We ride the transit to get to places and we also ride simply to take cost free tours of areas of Rome. When we have been trekking around and are really tired, we sometimes get on a bus just to ride around and rest. To make up for its mediocre Metro (i.e., subway) system, Rome has a fabulous bus system. And we are lucky to be near the 90 bus which is an express bus that goes to the Statione Termini where we can get the Metro and many other buses.

How do the Romans get around. Well many certainly many rely on public transport like we do. But many, many others drive motor scooters. Old scooters, scooters for two people and fancy new scooters whose seats and controls look like those of luxurious automobiles. Of course many Romans drive automobiles and one of the most popular brands we see is the Smart car (photo, left) which is tiny and easy to park. These two-seaters are all over the place in Rome and we saw many of them in Paris and in Germany as well. Just don't get into an accident in one.

A slave of the empire     Like many others who have come to Rome, I have become a slave of the Empire at the hands of a Roman Legionaire. Of course it cost us 2 Euros to have my slavery recorded for posterity in this photo. I also had to surrender my beloved tour guide Key to Rome by Vreeland.

Actually I lost the book on a bus. Sueann and I had agreed to get some gelato one day as we walked about. But as we walked about we did not see a gelateria. Eventually we got on a bus to return home. I put the book in front of my seat on a convenient ledge. At a bus stop, Sueann saw a gelateria and said "let's go there." We hopped off the bus and as the bus pulled away I saw a man pick up the book. It was gone. The gelato was good, but not as good as the book.

We picked up a copy of the venerable Michelin green guide to Rome but I still miss Vreeland.

The Pantheon     The Pantheon, built to its present form by Emperor Hadrian in AD 118, is the best preserved ancient building in Rome. Its design and the engineering that was required to build it are extraordinary. The exterior consists of a circular structure topped by a dome and introduced by a porch. The diameter of the building at 142 feet is equal to its height so that a sphere could fit inside, rest on the floor and fill the dome completely. The walls of the cylindrical structure supporting the dome are over 20 feet thick.

The walls have no openings except for the entrance and a circular openening in the dome, the oculus, lets in most of the light. A number of design methods were used to prevent the dome from collapsing under its own weight. The thickness of the dome material decreases as the the height increases. Lighter materials were used in the higher sections. To provide even more support, arched concentric rectangles line the interior surface of the dome.

It is said that the most spectacular way to view the Pantheon is during a heavy rain storm when a solid ring of rain falls straight down onto the marble floor. It has been very sunny here until today so we haven't had a chance to see this yet. However, Sueann just said to me "I hear thunder", so we may be be in for a treat soon.

We have come to Rome twice before, but long ago in the 1960's and 1970's. The Pantheon remains as my clearest and most favored memory from those trips. It is incredible that such a sophisticated building could survive 19 centuries of environmental as well as human stress. It is for me one of the real wonders of the ancient world.

Jeffrey mentioned earlier about the Smart. It seems to me that years ago when one was in Germany one saw primarily Mercedes and VWs, in France it was Citroens and Renaults, and in Italy there were Fiats. Now, there are all makes, and loads of models of cars. The Smart is very popular. It has two seats. There is an even more popular style of European car that has four seats. It looks like a squashed sedan with a back that goes up. All makes seem to have some variation of this car, even Mercedes.

Well, it did start to rain, with thunder overhead. The rain's let up and the thunder's in the distance. I imagine this afternoon the sun will come out and we'll be off to The Aventine.

We miss you. Until next time, Ciao.

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