Anyone who has the opportunity to travel to Italy needs to go to Rome and in particular to the Pantheon and Vatican City. Yes there’s the Colosseum and other fabulous ancient sites and museums to visit but for me these two destinations were unexpectedly off the charts. At the Pantheon you walk through the Roman build portico with its giant columns into an open area inside the giant temple. What struck me most was symmetry of the architecture – all the way to the top of the domed ceiling. And at the top of the ceiling is a perfectly round giant hole or oculus through which you can see the sky. The only light in the building comes from this opening in the top. It’s quite amazing. And to think that the dome is made of cement and that cement is completely unsupported – no structural supports – and that it was built 1300 years ago. I’ve seen cement highway overpasses crumble in New Jersey after 10 years!
As for Vatican City, you can read about it but being there is an undescribable experience. The history, the antiquities, the massive size, the global significance is awe inspiring. And not knowing what to expect was the best part because it made the ‘discovery’ all the more mind-blowing. We had a guide and that was a critical factor because there are 17,000 visitors per day and you have know the secret path around the crowds so you can see things. People know about the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s and such but even the smallest displays stop you cold. Our guide explained how weavers were trained to make tapestries and might only work on 2 tapestries over their lifetime due to the detail needlework. I don’t know anything about weaving but the comment wow’d me. You need to visit.