A monumental stairway with a monumental past, the Spanish Steps are literally and figuratively at the heart of Rome.
There are many famous stairways around the world, from the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa, Ukraine, to the Escadaria Selaron in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. But few can rival the romance of Rome’s Spanish Steps.
Compared to most of Rome’s ancient tourist highlights, the Spanish Steps are fairly new additions to the city, yet they still predate the founding of the United States. The steps are so named because of the Spanish Embassy that was once located here.
In 1717, architect Francesco de Sanctis, along with Alessandro Specchi, developed a design for a staircase of 138 steps that would create better access to the Trinita dei Monti church. They incorporated curves, straight lines, vistas and terraces into a design that blends with the surrounding architecture of the piazza.
Since then, the stairway has played a significant part in the history of Rome. During the 18th and 19th centuries the Spanish Steps became a meeting place for local artists, writers, dandies and bohemians. In the 20th century it’s been immortalized on the big screen with movies ranging from Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Roman Holiday (1953) to The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).
Today, even though the once-popular pastime of eating a picnic or gelato on the steps is now forbidden, the Spanish Steps remain one of the city’s most social spots where locals and tourists come to sit, converse and bask in the city’s beauty.
At the top of the stairway is the spectacular 16th-century church, and at its base the lovely 17th-century Piazza di Spagna with the Bernini masterpiece, Barcaccia Fountain as its focal point. Lounging on the steps, talking with friends while watching the sun set, you’ll sense a touch of Spain in a truly Roman landscape.
The Spanish Steps are in central Rome. Take Metro Line A (the red line) to the Spagna station, right next to the steps. Buses are too big to get through the narrow streets in the area, but there are many that stop at Piazza del Popolo, a 10-minute walk away.