Speaking as a European, European cities are a mixture of awesomeness and awful-tourism. The goodness is there for the finding, whether it's the Pelle Negro in Barcelona, Broadway Market in London or Batignolles in Paris - it takes hours of prospective research or an inside connect.
The first time though, you've got to suck it up and join the queues. Given eighteen hours in Rome, this is exactly what we did. All on foot.
Hands down the Pantheon is older and better than anything in China. This a perfectly circular, immortal, breathtaking church - built when gods had names and special moves. It's a piece of man-made architecture that makes you proud to be a human being, something in the modern world we're not often able to express.
The beautiful spherical, tessellated ceiling. Oh man; the altars, the corinthian columns. So much marble. That massive studded door. It's phenomenal.
At the ceiling's peak is probably the world's greatest oculus. As sunlight enters the space, it casts an etherel shaft of light which moves across the space as the day progresses. It also gives no F**ks about the rain, water sprinkles in and departs through a somehow ominous golden drain in the exact center of the decadently laid floor.
It's also full of people who move randomly across the space oblivious, thank god you walk around it looking upwards.
Everybody in the world knows what this is. It's probably the most famously gruesome building in the world and the largest built by the Roman Empire. It's also a fully geometric beauty, just as much in ruin form as it must have been before big-game tourists exist.
What we don't all know is how much effort went into making the world's first large-scale sports stadium. Video walls and disabled access were a worry of the future. The Roman's needed to consider a load bearing floor, with slave handling and ferocious animal delivery mechanisms built in.
The result was something that would go down in history, with only a vague acknowledgement of what happened in there. People tore each other apart. People tore animals apart. Animals tore people apart. That's what happened in there.
The beauty of Rome is that it's smacked full of so many landmarks, around every corner is a piazza, or market... or vatican. It's a wanderer's dream.