Look down… what do you see?

June 16, 2011 / Places
Rome, Lazio
Have you ever thought to climb all those steps and have a look from the top? What do you see? I am talking about the Spanish Steps! This beautiful piazza has been the destination point for centuries for pilgrims and foreigners who arrived in Rome from the north – Piazza del Popolo – before finding accommodation.

But did you know that a few centuries ago only the southern half of the square was called Piazza di Spagna? (The Spanish Embassy to the Holy See is located there.) Back then the northern half (where the steps are) was instead called Piazza di Francia, after the French embassy…..and this French connection tells part of the story of the piazza.

When Louis XIV of France was king, Cardinal Mazarin, his advisor, proposed to build a monumental staircase up to the church of Trinita’ de’ Monti, featuring an equestrian statue of the French king out front. The plan was flat-out dismissed by the papacy and the project was shelved for almost a century when it was then finally built without the statue.

The “Spanish Steps” are a majestic series of three flights of steps that lead down to one of the most expensive streets in Rome, Via dei Condotti. In early summer these steps are completely covered by flowers….and not only… to this day travellers still come here just to sit on the steps to soak in the atmosphere and watch the street sellers and the caricature artists… soaking up some of the dolce vita

Always worth a stop!

– Contributed by Simona Albanese, a native of Rome, a bit Kiwi and Aussie, living, travelling and moving around the world with her family, while sharing her passion for art and culture via her blog.

6 Responses to “Look down… what do you see?”

  1. louise

    My goodness. I lived for decades in Rome and never knew of the French connection to Pzza di Spagna. Is this how French Academy is up there too? Very interesting note. Thanks.

  2. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thanks for a fascinating note. Also loved the French connection. It’s an interesting place for many reasons but it’s often not easy to linger because everyone else thinks so too!

  3. Years ago, when I could much more easily climb all those beautiful steps, a friend and I stayed in a convent that had rooms for tourists; it was just to the right of the yellow building in the last picture. In the middle was a very small courtyard where another family, who was staying there for several nights, parked their car. Believe me, the car barely fit. What I remember most vividly is that in the middle of one of the nights we were there, suddenly the most rich, melodious, tenor voice began singing from somewhere below. To this day, I have the tape recording I made of the beautiful music. Thanks for bringing back these memories.

  4. Gian Banchero

    What’s really needed are handrails, it’s difficult to use the steps with people plopped in the middle of them (see above photo). Didn’t their mothers teach them nutt’n??? The view from the top of the steps is always grand. …Grazie Simona.

  5. Miriam Raubvogel

    One of the greatest trips to Rome was in the early 70″s, with my husband..We honeymooned at the Hassler and I thought I was in heaven..On that same trip we saw AIDA at Carracalla..the concierge had gotten us front row seats..what a wonderful memory!

  6. I love the Spanish Steps…so many people there all the year around…a compulsory stop every time you are in Rome!!
    Thanks for all your comments!
    A presto!!


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