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April 21st, 2011
10:11 PM ET

What's Not to Love About Italy?

The history, the art, the culture and the charm make it one of the greatest destinations on earth.  So when The Revealer decided to do a piece on the Pantheon in Rome, the whole team was excited.

We were eager to investigate an exciting new theory that this majestic building, one of the oldest in antiquity, may actually have been built as a colossal sundial. It’s a complex piece of academic research that involves how shafts of light pour into the Pantheon at different times of the year.  Make sure to watch the piece on the website to fully understand it.

As we planned the shoot, we imagined filming CNN correspondent Nick Glass pouring over diagrams in quaint cafes and filming sunsets over Rome’s cobbled streets.  That would be the set-up, but we couldn’t cover the story without actually going inside the Pantheon itself.  Or could we?

Like so many historic buildings, you need permission to film for professional purposes.  Easy!  Or so we thought. Hordes of tourists pour through the building’s doors every day.  The only difference between them and us is… well, a few large broadcast cameras, some lights, miles of cables and oh, about seven big boxes of filming equipment. This is where we found ourselves up against the formidable barrier that is Italian bureaucracy.

What should have been a fairly straightforward process turned into a jumble of e-mails sent back and forth in English and Italian. Official requests were sent off and verbal agreements were made, but we still needed written permission to step foot in the Pantheon. When we were just days away from flying from London to Rome, the permission finally came through.  We thought we were sorted, but then another peculiar request came through…

Nick asked for a wheelchair. Not for him, for the camera. There was some uncertainty as to whether we’d be allowed to put our tripod on the floor.  To this day, we’re still not sure why that is. Perhaps it’s a bid to protect the floor – maybe they thought we’d be bringing in the amount of gear needed for a full feature film.  In the end, they did let us use the tripod – which was fortunate, as we needed this piece of kit to make sure cameraman Dave’s pictures weren’t all wobbly.

The wheelchair didn’t go to waste though.  We used it to capture the stunning, sweeping shots of the building’s majestic columns and gigantic doorway. As the researcher on the show, I was relieved that the team did use it, as acquiring the chair wasn’t as easy as you might think.  Most of the rental companies are miles out of the city, so I enlisted the help of Hada and Livia from the CNN bureau inRome.

Italian bureaucracy and wheelchairs aside, another looming issue which we had no control over was the sun. It’s not easy to film a piece on a giant sundial with no glimmer of the sun; or even worse, if there’s rain. Flights were tentatively booked, but nothing confirmed, as we anxiously monitored the weather in one of the world’s oldest cities, occasionally hurling abuse at the weather predictions.

After weeks of negotiation, and a transport strike in Rome thrown into the mix, we came up trumps.  The sun came out.  It’s the one thing you have absolutely no control over. Although, I think we can thank our guest Guilio Magli for its appearance – he’d promised to do a special sun dance just for the occasion.

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