I had the great fortune to be in Rome last week. It has been 16 years since my first visit, and the Eternal City has both changed and remained much the same. When there in 1999, there were a lot of preparations for the Millenium and thus many sites were getting a makeover; often I would visit something one day only to return the next day and find it covered in scaffolding. The church of Santa Maria Maggiore was closed on my previous visit, but this time, since it was near my hotel, it was one of the first sites I visited. The church's opulence is mind-blowing!
As well as basking in the warmth of Rome (16 C) it was a delight to be there during Carnevale as there were many street performances and an atmosphere of celebration. There was a grand piano set up across the road from the forum and four singers took the stage (individually, as duets, as a group) to sing popular opera songs.
I love the Pantheon. Originally it was a temple to all the gods, now it is a church; most definitely a sacred place.
The Pantheon's dome is it's most amazing feature, with the open circle spreading the natural light. When I was at university and taking a Roman art & architecture course, my professor had shown some personal photos of the city, including the interior of the Pantheon after it had been raining - puddles under the dome. I have been enthralled since.
After a pleasant stroll from The Pantheon, I found myself visiting the very baroque church of St Agnes in Agone (left of the fountain) in Piazza Navona. The picture below is one of Bernini's fountains.
Below the Spanish Steps, at Piazza Spagna, my guide book identifies this as another Bernini fountain or perhaps a fountain designed by "his less famous father". Though I like this fountain, most especially as there is seating around it, my guess is that it is senior Bernini's design, more staid and with less dynamic movement! Unfortunately the day after I was in this piazza, there was a match of some sort and small riots attributed to 6000 drunken Dutch fans did millions of euro worth of damage to the fountain and the piazza in general.