The Spanish Steps in Rome
Located in Piazza di Spagna, on the opposite side of the Fountain of the Old Boat, stands the real masterpiece of the area, the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, also known in English as the Spanish Steps, named after the Spanish Ambassador.
The majestic staircase was built by Francesco de Sanctis in the 18th century (1723-1725) on request of Pope Innocent XII who was looking for a solution to connect the square with the Church of Trinità dei Monti.
|Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder|
|Location: in Piazza di Spagna|
|Tickets: Not Needed|
Spanish Steps Meaning & Purpose
Works to build the Spanish Steps were financed by the French diplomat Étienne Gueffier. By that time Trinità dei Monti Church was then under the patronage of the King of France. Symbolically, the staircase aimed at celebrating the peace between Spain and France, by actually connecting the French Church of Trinità dei Monti with the Spanish Square. The French also planned to build a statue of King Louis XIV of France at the top of the staircase, but the idea was never executed due to the refusal of the Pope.
A Gathering Place
Given its splendor, the square was one of the main center of the city during the Renaissance period. It attracted the most important artists, writers and poets of the time. In time, the square was crowded by locals and travelers from all over the world. This tradition of the square as a gathering point has lived on ever since until today.
Stunning hotels, inns and residences were built all around the square.
Other Interesting Facts about the Spanish Steps
1In 2007 a drunk man attempted to drive a Toyota Celica down the Spanish Steps. Luckily no one was hurt, but several of the steps were scuffed. The driver was arrested.
2On March 20th 1986, the first McDonalds restaurant in Italy was opened near the Spanish Steps. Several protest movements took place against fast food giant and eventually led to Carlo Petrini founding the international Slow Food movement three years later.
3In spring the ramps of the staircase are adorned and covered with flowers, as wanted in Francesco De Sanctis’ original design.
Fountain of The Old Boat
As for the Fontana della Barcaccia, Gian Lorenzo Bernini finished the works started by his father. The fountain has the shape of a sinking boat, since it was intended to represent the flood of the Tiber River in 1598. According to legend on that desperate occasion a fishing boat, carried away by the massive flood, was then found in that precise spot. Actually, we know as a matter of fact that the sinking boat was just a mere expedient used by Bernini to overcome the low water pressure.
Admiring the fountain up close, you will notice that it is adorned with a bee and a sun, both symbols of Bernini’s family and a reference to Pope Urban VII, who commissioned the work.
Keats & Shelley Museum
On the right corner of the steps you can find the house where the English poets John Keats and Shelley lived. Today, their residence is a fine museum, the Keats and Shelley Memorial House, dedicated to their memory, that houses memorabilia of the English Romantic generation.