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Roman Gods

No matter how many tourists you have to plow through, or how many times you’ve already been to pay homage, the Pantheon sits in the top tier of Rome’s startlingly beautiful, historically rich, architecturally astonishing must-see attractions.

Built almost 2000 years ago, the Pantheon was originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in the reign of Augustus as a temple to all gods, and then rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. It is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

Today, the Pantheon also plays host to a longstanding feud between two Roman caffeine deities: a stone’s throw from the famous dome you will find both La Casa del Caffe Tazza d’Oro (on the Piazza della Rotonda), and Caffe Sant’ Eustachio (on Piazza Sant Eustachio around the corner). In a city where gastronomic empires rise and fall on the jealously guarded secrets of arabica roasting vs. robusta blending, and where the locals have more espressos a day than Jupiter had concubines, these two bars have built twin dynasties with fervent loyal supporters akin to rival clans of delirious football fans.

Which has the better coffee? I’m as yet undecided. So every time I go to Rome I stop in at both, have an espresso at each, and then go and contemplate the gods’ relative merits under the Pantheon’s oculus.

Rudston is our expert Italy planner; he lives in the Tuscan countryside to keep as close to the great Roman caffeine showdown as possible.

The locals have more espressos a day than Jupiter had concubines.

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