SPANISH STEPS - TREVI FOUNTAIN
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pages on the streets of the quarter:
Rome visitors never cease to be delighted and surprised by Piazza
di Spagna. It owes its name to the Spanish Embassy, the first to
be permanently established in Rome, in Palazzo Spagna by Antonio
del Grande (1647). The square was completed with the building of
the Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinita’ dei Monti) in 1725.
Designed by the Italian architect Francesco De Santis, the project
was financed by King Louis XV of France.
The striking architecture of the area was designed by Pope Sixtus
V, a renowned town planner of the time. Through the centuries, millions
of visitors have walked the Spanish Steps and admired their timeless
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della Croce), a three bedroom, sitting room, 2 bathrooms, terrace apartment in an 18th century
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The Spanish Steps consist of 12 flights of travertine steps of
varying widths, leading up to the Church of Trinità
dei Monti. Every year, in May, the steps are decorated
with pink azaleas, making this month a delightful time to visit.
While most visitors enjoy climbing the steps, for those who prefer
an easier route up, there is a lift/elevator outside of the metro
station. In the piazza at the bottom of the Spanish Steps is the
17th century Fountain of the Old Boat (Fontana
della Barcaccia), spouting water as she sinks. This fountain, by
Pietro Bernini, supposedly marks the place where a large barge came
to rest when the River Tiber overflowed its banks.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the area surrounding and
including the Spanish Steps became a popular visiting point for
wealthy people making the Grand Tour of Europe. All rich foreign
travellers were given honorary British citizenship and treated as
noble folk. This made it easy for locals to make money from them
by offering their services. The term er ghetto de l’inglesi—literally,
“the English ghetto”—was the name given to this
area at the time, referring both to the wealthy English who made
the area their home as well to the penniless English artists and
Church of Trinità dei Monti
At the end of the steps you find the scenic Franciscan Church of Trinità
dei Monti, by architects Carlo Maderno and Domenico Fontana, with
in front the Sallustian Obelisk, taken from the ancient Sallustian
John Keats and Percy B. Shelley lived in the palazzo to the right
of the Steps, and their home is presently a memorial museum.
Via Condotti, the fashionable, elegant street
facing the Spanish Steps, is a shopper’s paradise. It
is also a wonderful vantage point for viewing the Steps and
Church of Trinita' dei Monti. As you approach the Steps walking
along Via Condotti, you can't help being attracted by the
awesome and imaginative shapes of the Steps and of the Church,
which resembles a spaceship about to take off. The atmosphere
is quintessentially Roman: teens chatting on their "telefonini"
(mobile phones), tourists visiting the shops, business people
on their way to meetings and chic Roman women catching up
with their errands. Here you will find the famed Caffè
Greco, founded in 1760, whose past customers include Casanova,
Keats, Goethe, Gogol, Werner, Stendhal, Liszt, Byron, Elizabeth
Barret Browning, Buffalo Bill and the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria.
The Caffè’s interior is elegantly furnished with
antiques, paintings and original dedicated documents of its
famous customers. To the left of the Steps, the classic Babington’s
Tea Room, founded in 1896, offers an elegant interior, a wide
selection of teas and pastries, and waiters in traditional
For lovers of fashion, Via Condotti is no disappointment! Valentino,
Bulgari, Gianni Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Cartier, Dolce &
Gabbana, Chanel, Fendi and Jean-Paul Gauthier are just a few of
the designer boutiques to be found here.
The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi), Italy’s
most famous fountain, is situated nearby, on the back of Palazzo
Poli, facing a little square. The fountain became a household
name after Fellini’s movie “La Dolce Vita,”
where Anita Ekberg was shown frolicking in the water.
A masterpiece of architecture and sculpture, the Trevi Fountain
dates back to ancient Rome. Rebuilt many times throughout
the millennia, it was completed by Nicola Salvi between 1732
and 1751. The Fountain is a symbolic and fanciful celebration
of the Mediterranean civilization. The rushing waters come
from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct, which was commissioned by
Agrippa—a general of Augustus—in 19 BC. The aqueduct
transports the water from the Salone springs, 19 miles away
from the city. It is named after the young girl (vergine)
who supposedly took Agrippa’s thirsty soldiers to its
source. The name Trevi (from “trivium”) literally
means three ways: the fountain was constructed at the intersection
of three streets.
Legend has it that throwing a coin into the Trevi fountain will ensure
your return to Rome. (It is important that you do so by turning away
from the fountain and tossing the coin over your shoulder.)
Via del Babuino
Via del Babuino (Baboon Street) leads from
the Spanish Steps to the Piazza del Popolo square, and to
the Borghese Gardens. It takes its name from an ancient Roman
statue adorning a 16th century fountain that witty Romans
found so ugly that they likened it to a baboon. Two other
famous streets (Via del Corso e Via di Ripetta) lead to Piazza
These three streets form the Tridente and, together with those
intersecting them (Via della Croce, Via Margutta etc.), comprise
a neighbourhood of art houses, antique shops, craftsmen and
artists. Poussin and Wagner lived here. On Via
dei Greci you will find Santa Cecilia,
Rome’s most famous conservatory of music, and the Lion
Bookshop, the oldest English bookshop in Rome.
Piazza del Popolo seen from the Pincio
Piazza del Popolo
The immense and elegant Piazza del
Popolo contains the Northern gate of ancient Rome
(known as the Porta del Popolo). In the centre of the Piazza,
is a 3000 year-old Egyptian obelisk taken from the Circus
Maximus, surrounded by four lions. The square was designed
by the Franco-Italian architect, Guiseppe Valadier—architect
to Napoleon— in the early 19th century. There are three
churches in the Piazza, the most important of which is Santa
Maria al Popolo, which contains paintings by Caravaggio
and other important artists. The twin Baroque churches, Santa
Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesano are also worth
You will also find in the Piazza, two fashionable cafés,
Rosati and Canova. Rosati
is a meeting point for Rome’s literati, artists and
theatre-folk. The stylish Canova was a favourite of Fellini.
Piazza di Spagna: Collegio De Propaganda Fide
Just above the Piazza is the Pincio Garden, one of the oldest parts
of the renowned Borghese Gardens. From here, you have the best views
of Rome at sunset. The garden is separated from the gardens of the
Villa Borghese by ancient walls, and consists of a number of formal,
Palace for the Defense of the Holy Faith
In this quarter you will also find the Spanish Embassy (after which the
Steps and Piazza are named). You will also find Francesco Borromini’s
Palace for the Defense of the Holy Faith (Palazzo di Propaganda
Fide) and, perhaps surprisingly, a MacDonald’s. This fast
food emporium is quite unlike any other! Its elegant interior has
replica frescoes, and is preceded by a Roman mosaic at the entrance.
It is worth noting that MacDonald’s houses the only washrooms
in the area.
On Via della Mercede you will find the home of Borromini’s
great rival, Gianlorenzo Bernini. Adjacent to Bernini’s home
is the charming church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte.
Mausoleum of Augustus
Finally, just after Via del Corso, on the
way to the Tiber, you will find the Mausoleum of Augustus,
a huge, circular grave of the emperors Augustus and Tiberius.
Nearby, encased in glass, is the magnificent Ara Pacis, or
Altar of Peace, one of the most artistically distinguished
monuments of ancient Rome. It was erected in 9 BC to celebrate
the wealth and security brought by Augustus’ victories
in Spain and Gaul. It was rebuilt from ancient fragments amassed
during a time-consuming and difficult excavation.