St. Peter’s Basilica was built to impress: 198 feet wide, 145 tall, and 614 long (brass floor plaques show how much shorter other famous churches are), with cherubs the size of linebackers and enough great art to fill two museums.
This ancient rotunda, called the Pantheon, today is a church dedicated to Mary and “all the martyrs,” was built as a pagan temple (dedicated to “all the gods”) nearly two millennia ago.
In the year 590, as he prayed for Rome’s deliverance from a plague, St. Gregory the Great had a encouraging vision of an angel sheathing its sword above Castel Sant’Angelo, a massive brick castle built atop the drum of Hadrian’s first-century mausoleum. The plague ended, and the castle got a new name (and, in 1752, a spiffy bronze statue of the angel).
The only island in the Tiber River within Rome is connected to the shores by the Ponte Fabricio, built in AD 62 and still in use by pedestrians today.
During the Christmas seasons, Romans erect elaborate presepi (Nativity scenes) across the city. Rome's Christmas market action centers on Piazza Navona, its Bernini fountains surrounded by stalls hawking toys, handmade presepio figures, carnival games of chance, ciambelle (dinner plate-size doughnuts), and 101 variations on peanut brittle.