The Spanish Steps & Piazza di Spagna

Spanish Steps The Spanish Steps (photo: Eleanor Murkett)

The Piazza di Spagna takes its name from the Spanish embassy to the Holy See, which is located on the piazza. It is best known for the Spanish Steps, a broad flight of stairs that leads up to the church of Trinità dei Monti which overlooks the piazza.

In the centre of the piazza is the Fontana della Barcaccia, which is thought to have been the last work of Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The boat design commemorates a flood which brought a boat to rest on a nearby hill, but its close-to-the-ground design may also have been a clever way of building a fountain in what was then a low-water pressure area.

The Spanish Steps

This famous staircase was laid in 1725 in order to ease the passage up the slope to the Trinità dei Monti. Despite the name (see above), its construction was in fact funded by the French. Presumably this was because the church to which they grant access is also French. From the top of the steps, it's a short walk to the Villa Medici and the Villa Borghese park.

Trinità dei Monti

The sixteenth century Trinità dei Monti was designed by Carlo Maderno and built with money from the French king Louis XII. Inside there are several interesting paintings, including a portrait of Michelangelo by his student Daniele da Volterra as well as Volterra's Descent from the Cross. The church is open daily from 10am-noon & 4pm-6pm.

The Keats-Shelley House

The poet John Keats came to Rome in late 1920, hoping that the warmer climate would help him to overcome his tuberculosis. However, it was not to be, and after staying for just a few months in a room at the base of the Spanish Steps, he passed away and was buried in the protestant cemetery. The house where he stayed now belongs to the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association. As well as being a museum, the house holds regular lectures and other events. Read more about it on our page on The Keats-Shelley House.

Visiting the Spanish Steps

The Piazza di Spagna has its own metro stop, 'Spagna', on Linea A.