Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy connect the Piazza di Spagna, at the bottom, with the Piazza Trinità dei Monti, at the top, which is dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church (above). Built from 1723-1725 and designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and  Alessandro Specchi, following a competition, the large terraced stairway consists of 174 total steps.

At the foot of the steps, in the middle of the Piazza di Spagna, is located the Baroque-style Fontana della Barcaccia, literally “Fountain of the Boat” (below), which was completed long before the Spanish Steps themselves. It was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in 1623, who chose Pietro Bernini to build it as part of a prior Papal project to erect a fountain in every major Roman piazza. Pietro is best known today for several other works, including the Pauline Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, as well as the Fountain of Neptune in Naples, Italy. His fountain in Rome was built from 1627-1629, possibly with the help of his son Gian Lorenzo Bernini (best known for his work on St. Peter’s Basilica), since Pietro died in 1629. The fountain is sculpted into the shape of a half-sunken ship, with water overflowing from seven points into a small basin. According to legend, as the Tiber flooded in 1598, water carried (and deposited) a small boat into the center of the square.

The film Roman Holiday (1953), starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, probably did the most to make the Spanish Steps famous to an American audience. Several other movies, for example The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) and Bertolucci’s Besieged (1998),  have also been set in apartments located adjacent to the Steps. And perhaps the most famous film of the last generation in which the Steps were featured prominently is The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), starring Matt Damon.

The most recent of numerous renovations over the years commenced in October 2015 and was completed in 2016.

  • Visited: Apr 2016

1 Comment

  1. Good to know the history. While visiting in 2016 the steps were still under renovations so I was unable to climb those 174 steps and it was raining. Had a lovely dinner however nearby with a view of the piazza and beautiful church.


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