Facts about Spanish Steps
One of the longest and widest staircases in Europe and one of the most famous in Rome
The Spanish Steps in Rome are one of the city's most visited landmarks. They are one of the longest and widest staircases in Europe, second only to the famous Potemkin Staircase, a symbol of Odessa. Once besieged by crowds sitting on them, today we can admire them walking from the Spanish Square to the church of Trinita dei Monti. In spring, they are additionally more picturesque thanks to the colorful azaleas presented there by the city authorities.
1Scalinata Trinita dei Monti - called the Spanish Steps are one of the most famous in Rome.
They owe their name to the Mondaleschi palace, the seat of the Spanish embassy to the Holy See. Spain was vital for Rome and the Vatican at that time, that is why the stairs became known as the Spanish Stairs.
2They are located in Piazza di Spagna - Spanish Square, which has become famous thanks to them. Stairs are an immanent part of Piazza di Spagna.
The Spanish Steps connect Piazza di Spagna with the 16th-century church of Trinita dei Monti.
3The staircase as a baroque-rococo composition was created in the years 1723-1725.
They were designed by Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi. Long discussions were held on how to urbanize the steep slope on the side of the Pincio (a hill that is one of the seven main hills of Rome) to connect it with the church of the Trinita dei Monti (Church of the Holy Trinity). The solution of De Sanctis was chosen.
4The staircase was made for the Jubilee Year of the Holy Year 1725 (a year of special grace in the Christian tradition, commemorating man's descent from God).
It was commissioned by Cardinal Pierre Guerin de Tencin, Minister of France to the Holy See, during the pontificate of Pope Innocent XIII, who issued a bull declaring 1725 a Holy Year. This bull was promulgated in 1724, after his death, and the Jubilee was celebrated under the pontificate of Benedict XIII.
5The monumental staircase at the top of the long street leading to the Tiber was designed in such a way that the scenic effect gradually increased the closer one approached.
In keeping with Baroque architecture, the idea was to create long, deep perspectives that culminated in a monumental backdrop.
6The stairs consist of 135 steps (some claim 136, but they count drainage platform as a step).
They are made of travertine quarried near Tivoli. In their upper part, there are large terraces from which you can admire the surroundings. On top of the stairs, the church of the Holy Trinity is located. The church is highlighted by the symbolism contained in the shape of the staircase. A pyramid of three terraces (a reference to the Holy Trinity) spreads out like an ocean wave. The wavy lines were intended to emphasize movement as a symbol of life. The lowest and the widest part of the composition was meant to symbolize the power of the Holy Spirit. The monumental staircase is decorated with numerous garden terraces adorned with flowers in spring and summer.
7Every year beautiful azaleas appear on the Spanish Steps.
The City Council organizes an annual spring exhibition of azaleas, a symbol of the Roman spring. They remain on the steps for about a month until the end of their flowering period and then are taken to friendly nurseries. Fashion shows are also held on the steps, and in December the Christmas nativity scene appears there.
8At the top of the stairs sits the 16th-century church Trinita dei Monti, part of the French Community of Emmanuel.
The church was built by order of Louis XII, King of France, who owned the land (previously, there was an extensive vineyard). Construction work went on for almost the entire 16th century. The church was built in the Gothic style with stones from Narbonne (a town in France). It was consecrated in 1585 by Pope Sixtus V. In order to connect the Pincio Hill with the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the construction of a road was decreed. After the road was built, it turned out it is located lower than the church. To solve the problem, the architect designed and built a double staircase with two terraces leading to the church.
9In front of the church is the Sallustiano Obelisk, almost certainly brought to Rome by Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (Roman emperor, one of the most prominent rulers of the second half of the 3rd century).
The obelisk was originally located in the "Salustian Gardens." It is made of red granite and is 13.91 meters high and placed in a way as to correct the not quite axial position of the church in relation to the stairs.
10In former times two roads led down from the church along the hillside, steep and muddy, inaccessible to carriages.
The difference in elevation clearly separated the church from the city below. There were several projects to connect the church with the Piazza di Spagna, but they never came to fruition. It was not until the French, as owners of the land and Pope Innocent XIII, approved De Sanctis' staircase project in 1720 and the construction of the Spanish Steps began. The construction (located near the Spanish Embassy) was intended to celebrate the peace between France and Spain.
11From the Piazza di Spagna branches the famous Via Margutta, one of the most magical corners of the Eternal City, made famous by William Wyler's "Roman Holiday" starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
Originally a street of humble artisans, workshops and stables, it now houses many art galleries and trendy restaurants. Although it is in the city center, it retains its garden atmosphere with fragrant trees and vineyards, making it an ideal choice for artists, painters, sculptors and antique dealers. It hosts the traditional art festival "100 Painters of Via Margutta", sponsored by the Mayor and the Province of Rome, which has been a field for discovering new artists for many years. For this period, Via Margutta becomes an art gallery where more than 1,000 works of art are exhibited, including oil paintings, drawings and watercolors. Among the historical residents of the street were Giulietta Masina, Federico Fellini, Renato Guttuso (painter and politician), Marina Punturieri (writer, actress, director, stylist) and Amerigo Tot (Hungarian sculptor and occasional actor).
12Another street is the Via del Babuino, home to many antique shops, connecting the Piazza del Popolo with the Piazza di Spagna.
On the initiative of Pope Pius V, a new fountain decorated with a statue depicting an ancient deity associated with springs and water was built along the street. The figure did not please the street residents because of its great ugliness. They compared it to a monkey and nicknamed it Babuino (baboon). This name was quickly adopted for the entire street, which was earlier called Via Paolina. Franz Liszt lived there at number 89.
13At the foot of the Spanish Steps begins the Via Condotti - it is named after the canal or canals that carried water to the Baths of Agrippa.
Today it is a street with the most exquisite shops and the famous Caffe Greco - perhaps the most famous coffee house in Rome, founded in 1760 (it is the oldest coffee house in Rome and the second oldest in Italy, after Caffe Florian in Venice). Famous people used to appear here: Stendhal, Goethe, Byron, Liszt and Keats to drink coffee. In Via dei Condotti 11, until his death in 1937, lived the inventor of the radio Guglielmo Marconi.
14A McDonald's opened near the Spanish Steps, frequented by large crowds of tourists.
In 1986, fashion designer Valentino filed a lawsuit to close the establishment because of "noise and disgusting smells" under his six-story palazzo near Via Condotti. To the dismay of some Romans, McDonald's overcame the obstacles and is up and running.
15There is a baroque fountain in the middle of the Spanish Square - Fontana della Barcaccia.
It has the shape of a half-sunken boat with water flowing through its sides. The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and completed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and his son Gianlorenzo Bernini. The form of the fountain was chosen to commemorate the flood that inundated the Spanish Square in 1598. There is a legend that during the flood, a lone boat made its way from the Tiber to the Plaza de España, where it settled after the waters receded.
16At the southern end of Spanish Square is the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, seat of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The palace was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who created the main façade; the rest of the building was entrusted to Francesco Borromini, whose style was favored by Pope Innocent X. The building contains the chapel of the Biblical Epiphany, built by Borromini. The palace is extraterritorial property of the Holy See.
17In the southern part of Spanish Square, opposite the Spanish Embassy, rises the column of the Immaculate Conception from the 19th century, which combines antiquity (Corinthian column) with modern times (statue of the Virgin Mary on the top).
18Near the northeast corner of Spanish Square is the church of the Order of the Resurrectionists - the Congregation of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
It was a Polish congregation whose members came from the surroundings of poet Adam Mickiewicz. In 1842, the first vows were taken in the catacombs of the Basilica of St. Sebastian behind the walls. In addition to the typical monastic rules, the resurrectionists carried out information activities related to the Polish cause. Poland was partitioned between three countries back then. Several paintings by Polish artists, including Henryk Siemiradzki, have been preserved in the interior of the building. The mortal remains of the founders of the congregation are also buried here. The church is rarely open to the public.
19Near the church of Trinita dei Monti, at the junction of two streets, stands the historic Zuccari Palace, built in 1592 by the mannerist painter Federico Zuccari.
The façade of the palace is decorated with interesting portal and windows in the shape of huge maws. In ancient Rome, this place was called the House of Monsters. In this house for 12 years lived (1702-1714), Queen Marysienka Sobieska, widow of Polish King John III Sobieski. A remembrance of this fact - the coat of arms of John III Sobieski and next to it the family coat of arms of Marysienka are placed under the rococo portico with six columns. When Marysienka came to Rome, she made a great impression with the wealth of her court. Her entourage consisted of 300 people, 30 carriages, 500 horses, and supposedly even a few camels. As she strode through the streets of Rome, she shocked the inhabitants because the servants accompanying her were dressed in Turkish clothes.
20In 2015-2016, the Spanish Steps underwent a restoration.
The sponsor of this restoration was Bulgari, which donated 1.5 million euros for this purpose. Bulgari jewelers are emotionally connected to the Spanish Steps, as they link Via Sistina, where the company's first store opened in 1884, with Via Condotti, where their showroom is located today.
21Although there is a superstition that one should not eat on these stairs because it brings bad luck, it was a place where tourists loved to eat.
According to law, it is forbidden to do so and to sit on the stairs.