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The Great Pantheon of Rome

Gaius Octavius Julius Caesar Augustus (that’s Augustus to you and me), strode across this square to see the temple his admiral and friend Marcus Agrippa had built to honor all the gods (just in case one was missed) after they had defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. Rebuilt by Hadrian, later converted into a church, the Pantheon is now the resting place for the artist Raphael and the recent Kings of Italy. The best time to visit this square is in the late morning, when the sun is high enough to enjoy the shadow of the umbrellas outside the cafés and watch the tourists pass by, going into the great old temple, splashing water from the fountain onto hot, bright faces and posing for fotos and videos.

The street artists appear, like the forever-grinning clown with a colorful paper flower to give to every girl so that, as his prize, he can kiss her on the cheek. One girl was so surprised she ran right across the square to avoid his kiss. In her surprise she still held on to the flower so the clown decided he had to follow. They ran right out of the square to the friendly laughter of all!

A long, thin man enters the square, walking closely behind a local shopkeeper and copying his movements – hand in pocket, scratch nose, brush hair back, look up at the sky to check for rain. Everyone watching tries to stay silent and not to look too hard, but eventually the shopkeeper discovers he is being mimicked; his reaction goes from shock to laughter – and everyone laughs with him. A kind-faced man enters, trailing dogs and butterflies, swords and crowns made from many colored balloons. He sits down by the fountain as the children gather round to see what more magic he will weave from his personal rainbow of shapes.

You can spend many a lazy, happy afternoon on the Piazza del Panteone, just watching the people go by.

Article and Photographs Copyright © Carl Ottersen