The Spanish Steps is an unusual architectural gimmick, considered one of Rome’s top attractions. The cascade of polished stone stairs majestically descends from the top of Pincian Hill right to the foot of Spanish Square (Italian: Piazza di Spagna).
This sightseeing is one of the unmatched architectural landmarks of Rome. Wide baroque steps attract thousands of visitors and serve as a leading source of inspiration to cinematographers and artists. In addition, such modern fashion houses as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari, and Dior prefer to place their boutiques within easy reach of this marvelous construction.
Getting enough from contemplation of smooth travertine steps, travelers will learn more about the history of the place. However, the most interesting fact in the biography of this sightseeing is its name. “Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti” in English means “the stairway to the church of Trinita dei Monti.”
In fact, the mysterious Spaniard has a really ambiguous history based on the struggle of french and spanish spheres of interests on the territory of Italy. The titular church Trinita dei Monti, that towers on the Pincian Hill was constructed with the help of Louis 12 in the 16th century. It immediately became a stronghold for the french nationals who lived far away from their homeland. At the same time the Spanish Square at the foot of the Pincian Hill also played an extremly significant role for the Spaniards, while the spanish embassy was located there.
Despite being married to Maria Theresa of Austria and close kinship with the Spanish monarchs, Louis 14 had strained relations with neighboring countries. Ultimately, French political leader Etien Geffie decided to alleviate the tension and fix the situation. In order to do so, he proposed constructing the stairway that would connect Trinita dei Monti church and Spanish Square.
It cost Geffie about twenty thousand scudi to bring to life such a symbolic idea in Rome.
The Spanish Steps should have become a grandiose and highly pretentious architectural complex concerning the initial plan. The only point at issue was an equestrian statue of Louis 14 on the top of the edifice. But the Roman government considered themselves insulted and put a veto on the construction project.
Only in 1717 the competition among the architects was declared, and the creative dyad of Alessandro Specchi and Francesco de Sanctis won the right to carry on the project. The works started in 1723. However, most of the time was spent on the pre-construction activities, such as forming the ground of the hill and underpinning the square.
For almost two years the group of builders and constructers worked their fingers to the bone to bring up 138 travertine steps.
As a result, the stairway got its wide central part framed by two narrower sections. There is a viewpoint where one can get by one of the half-moon side spans. Each stairway side is fenced with stone ledges designed in the Italian baroque style. At that time, the architects decided to decorate the stairway more modestly. They used the heraldic symbols of the Bourbons dynasty and the traditional images of the crown and eagle – the attributes of pontifical power.
From 1725 till 90-es of the 20th century, the Spanish Steps didn’t undergo any serious reconstructions. Dilapidated steps and time-eaten stones cankered by rain and dirt didn’t retain much romance. So the municipal government found the finance to renovate this heritage asset. And in 1997, revived and refreshed sightseeing regained the tourists’ list of Rome’s most famous landmarks. And again, vast flows of travelers were drawn to the most majestic and beautiful stairways in the whole of Europe.
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Every year, when spring comes, the flowerpots with azaleas and petunias paint the stairway in pinkish and flamboyant colors. While in winter, the same wide steps become the stage for short Christmas plays. Moreover, Trinita dei Monti church is a very picturesque background to the Spanish Steps.
In addition to this, the church’s interior also deserves attention. One of the most famous exhibits is the sculpture “The Descent from the Cross,” performed by the apprentice of Michelangelo Daniela de Valtera.
A walk upwards will also uncover the travellers a magnificent view on the Spanish Square and adjacent streets. A building that is located at the foot of the stairs on the right is a house museum devoted to english romantic poets John Keats and Mary Shelley. Some say that young Keats exuberantly declared his poems to a successful woman and writer, Mary Shelley, walking along the stone steps of the famous architectural monument.
The Spanish Steps allow the visitors to overlook the Fountain of the Old Boat (Fontana della Barcaccia), the Spanish Square’s main decorative element. Pietro Bernini was a prominent sculptor who created the fountain at the beginning of the 17th century.
Read also about the Trevi Fountain.
A widely-known legend is that waters cast the fishing boat ashore once the Tiber river overflowed. It inspired the master and provided the basis for such a peculiar composition of the fountain.
No matter how lofty it may sound, the Spanish Steps in Rome even have their own filmography. In the movie “Roman holidays,” delicate and refined Audrey Hepburn enjoyed an ice cream sitting here. Not to mention that many Italian films cannot do without Rome’s views and especially shots made from Pincho Hill.
Fashion shows, parties, and other incredible events of the high fashion industry organized by Valentino, Dolce&Gabanna, and other well-known designers can also be added to the long list of merits and credentials of this amazing and extraordinary beautiful sightseeing.
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Author: Kate Zusmann
For the last 10 years, I live in the Eternal City. Traveling, exploring new things, writing blogs, and shooting vlogs are my main hobbies, but the thing that I like even more is sharing my experience and thoughts with you! Explore Rome with Us :)
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