About Spanish Steps
Located on the pretty Piazza di Spagna (literally ‘Spanish Square’), the Spanish Steps is a much-loved spot in Rome for snap-happy travelers. The 135-steps stairway fans out in an irregular butterfly-like design. If you are an art connoisseur in Rome, the typical Roman Baroque-style architecture of the stairs is sure to capture your interests. Tourists also visit here to clamber up to the top of the stairwell from where you can find a brilliant, sweeping view of the Piazza down below.
At the peak of springtime in April, you will find the stairs bedecked with pink and purple azaleas blooming in all glory. The springtime also coincides with the myth of the birth of Rome- the Eternal City bringing vibrant festivities and large gatherings at the Spanish Steps. The iconic stairway of Rome happens to draw a lot of artsy people--painters, literateurs, models, and photographers, to its magnificent steps.
Any time of the day that you visit, people can be found making sketches, writing, or photographing on the stairs. Among the large body of painting, photography, and literature that the steps have inspired over time, you may remember it most notably from the 50’s hit rom-com Roman Holiday- starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. However, contrary to what was shown in the movie, lounging on the steps of the Spanish Stairs have recently come under a ban from the municipal authorities of Rome. Keep that in mind when you visit and don’t get fined!
How to Reach Spanish Steps
The distance from the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport to the Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna is 31.9 km, going by road A91. You can choose from the following transport options to reach the destination:
Bus: Reach the Rome Fiumicino Airport Bus Station. From here, buses are available towards the Vatican every 30 minutes. It will take around 45 hours to reach the Vatican by this transport. After reaching you can take a short walk from the Vatican bus terminus to the Spanish Steps or hire a cab to beach the little distance.
Call-a-Cab: There are a number of call-a-cab services operational across Rome and the Vatican. You can book a cab at a reasonable price in advance for more ease in travel. Airport transfer to the Spanish Steps is widely available by phone app-based cab services.
City Cab: City cabs too could be hired from the airport for small prices to take you to the Spanish Steps. Cabs can be hired from taxi-stands right out of the airport, as well as from the Rome Fiumicino Airport Bus Station.
Best Time to Visit Spanish Steps
The steps can be visited from as early as 7 am in the morning to as late as 8 pm in the evening. However, the best time to explore the site in peace happen to be:
Morning: The morning opening hours, between 7 am-9 am is considered the best time for visiting this special attraction in Rome. During this time, tourist inflow remains considerably low, making it suitable for you to enjoy each detail unhurried with no long queues to stand at. It also gets much easier to climb the stairs of the Spanish Steps when the site is uncrowded.
Midday: The hours between 12 pm-2 pm is another window marked for low crowds as the midday sun hangs right overhead and it gets pretty sultry. Tourists and locals tend to move towards the eateries in the vicinity during these hours, so you may find yourself in a less crowded atmosphere at the Spanish Steps during this time.
Evening: The late hours of the dusk from 6 pm-8 pm are a great time to visit for those who are enthusiastic about sunset photography. It is a visual treat to see the vermillion rays of the setting sun creating beautiful patterns on the floors as the light falls through the structures.
What Not to Miss at Spanish Steps
A massive stairway fans out from the Piazza di Spagna in an asymmetrical design, resembling a butterfly. The magnificence of the stairway makes it one of the unmissable attractions when wandering in Rome. To take in the beauty of these stairs to the full extent, you must climb to the top. Here’s what to look forward to:
1. Climbing the Steep Stairs: The number of steps in the Spanish Stairs is a whopping 138, and each of them rises up steep and shallow. It is quite a task to ascend the height, but the slowly unraveling great views of the surroundings kind of offsets the labor easily. The climb to the top of the steps is broken up by several terraces, where one can stop and catch some breath.
On your move up, do not forget to take in the little details along the way-- an early baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia or the “Fountain of the Old Boat”, the house of the English poet John Keats at the right-hand corner which now is a museum preserving a treasure of memorabilia of the poet, the beautiful twin tower church popping up over the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti dominating the skyline, and other striking features around the monumental stairway.
2. Visit the Trinita Dei Monti Church: Pay a visit to this Roman Catholic, late-Renaissance titular church at the top of the Spanish Steps. The commanding view of the Plaza offered from this high up is a superb visual treat that you will find here beside the gorgeous decorous interior of the ancient church.
3. Photograph the Surroundings: Photography enthusiasts to Rome must visit the great stairs to capture some greatly astounding clicks. The panoramic view of the Plaza from the heights is nothing short of spectacular. A special note here goes for springtime when the azaleas around the steps come to bloom, accenting the marble stairs with dreamy purple hues.
Attractions Near Spanish Steps
While climbing up the stairs to the top is very exciting, save some time to do more around the Spanish Steps. The must-visit spots near the Steps cover a diverse range of interests-- from temples of high fashion to centers of art and literature legacies. Here is where you can go:
1. Pay a visit to the Keats-Shelley House- You will find this glorious historic home at the bottom right of the Spanish Steps. One of the greatest of the English Romantic poets, John Keats had lived and died in this house when he was only 25 years of age. The house today is dedicated to the memory of the Romantic poets and preserves a host of awe-inspiring memorabilia from their times. The bedroom of John Keats remains one of the top attractions here.
2. Take a Stroll Around the Villa Borghese Park- The park was once the playground of the Popes of the Vatican. You can spend much of your day here exploring the network of beautiful walking trails and a zoo inside this complex. There is a carousel at one corner for you to take a feisty ride on, a little lake offering boat rentals, quaint cafes, ponies for a ride around, and a bijou cinema house.
Attractions also include one of Rome’s most well-known art museums-- the Galleria Borghese and also the National Etruscan Museum located in the Villa Giulia. A magnificent collection of Renaissance and Baroque art and valuable relics and artifacts from pre-Roman times of Etruscan culture are preserved here carefully. Make a prior reservation to explore the Galleria Borghese in detail.
3. Visit the Unusual Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars- 4,000 Capuchin friars lie at rest here at this museum, but that is not what makes it unusual and especially noteworthy. You will come to find one of the most unusual sights of Rome at this site, that of the skulls and bones of the friars displayed artfully, creating chandeliers and other articles of the interior.
Located at around a 10-minute walk from the Spanish Steps, this place seems to be a chapel dedicated to death. Bringing children here may not be a good idea due to the haunting shock value of the place.
4. Shoot to the Top at the Piazza del Popolo- Step into one of the vastest open spaces of the Roan urbanscape here at Piazza del Popolo. You will be much relieved to enter these wide expansive spaces right after the Spanish Steps that remain fairly populated throughout the year.
Check out the obelisk at the center of the piazza which was once looted by Augustus- the emperor of Egypt in 10 A.D. The church of Santa Maria del Popolo inside the complex contains many works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Bernini, and other art legends of Italy. Naturally, art enthusiasts will be in a world of delight here.
5. Shop from High Fashion Brands- The alleys surrounding the Spanish Steps house some of the greatest fashion label stores of global-Italian vogue. Window-shop here, checking out brand stores like- Fendi, Bulgari, and Valentino. Other iconic fashion labels to be spotted here include Prada, Gucci, and Armani. Feast your senses on high street fashion at the very mecca of the fashion world!
6. Trevi Fountain- Witness the largest Baroque fountain of Rome at the Piazza de Trevi. It is cherished as the most beautiful fountain in all of Rome. Whether you are visiting during the day when the marbles sparkle in the sun or during night when the site is warmly lit, the fountain is sure to mesmerize you.
Designed by the Italian architect Nicola Salvi who started it in 1730 and Pietro Bracci who completed the structure in1762, this famous fountain is only a 10 min walk from the Spanish Steps.
Other Essential Information About Spanish Steps
Location- The Spanish Steps is situated in Piazza di Spagna, 00187 Roma RM, Italy.
Distance from Nearest Airport- The distance between the Rome Airport (FCO) and Spanish Steps is 23 km by a alleyways while the driving distance is 29.6 km.
Number to Stairs- There are 138 stairs going steep in the Spanish Steps.
Best time for photography- The early hours of the morning and the late dusk are considered the best time for photography at the Spanish Steps.
History of Spanish Steps
Following many decades of heated debate over urbanising the steep slope which inclined up to the Holy See Church, the Spanish Steps were built. The magnificent structure was designed by the little-known architect Francesco de Sanctis in the year 1717. Pope Gregory XIII of the Vatican was personally interested in this project.
Among other people who took an active interest in executing this architectural project was Gasper Van Whittle. H had taken notes on the wooded slope which had been built around 1683 to connect the Holy See to the Spanish Embassy in Piazza di Spagna. These notes were used to architect the Steps. An equestrian statue of Louis XIV in the complex of the Steps was also discussed but never materialised due to protests from the papal Rome. The Steps have been restored several times over the decades, the most recent being in the year 1995.
Facts about Spanish Steps
1. Built By an Underrated Architect: The steps were built by a little-known Italian artist named Francesco de Sanctis, while the project was financed by the French diplomat Étiene Gueffier. The idea of connecting the Spanish Embassy in the Piazza with the Holy See Church by the stairs had been conceived long ago. The skilled architect Francesco de Sanctis made it possible. There also was the plan of erecting a statue of King Louis XIV of France, which was never executed.
2. Elegant Design of the Stairs Inspires Art: The spanish Steps is a site popular among the artists, painters, and poets who come to Rome. The gracefulness inherent in the design inspires bursts of creativity in artists.
Also, the stunning backdrop of the Eternal City attracts a lot of aspiring models to shoot for portfolio photographs. Travelers will find the space interesting owing to the intermingling of so many types of people at this site.
3. Fontana della Barcaccia or the “Fountain of the Old Boat”: It is a fountain architectured in the Baroque style, to be found at the lower end of the stairs. This piece of brilliant architecture is credited to Pietro Bernini of the famous Bernini family of artists, and the son of the iconic Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The fountain has the shape of a sinking ship, the story of which is drawn from a folk legend of Rome. The legend tells of a fishing boat which reached this exact spot when the Tiber River historically flooded in the 16th century.
4. The Drunken Man Who Drove Down the Stairs: A drunk man came on the news for attempting to drive a Toyota Celica down the Spanish Steps on 13th June, 2007.
5. The House of John Keats: The English poet John Keats lived and breathed his last in the year 1821 at a house at the base of these stairs. Today, you can find a museum dedicated to John Keats and the Romantic Movement in the house.
6. Italy’s First McDonald’s: Italy had its first McDonald’s opened under the Spanish Steps! Later, the international Slow Food Movement led by Carlo Petrini led to shutting down of the shop.
Tips for Visiting Spanish Steps
The Eternal City of Rome is thronged with global tourists throughout all seasons and you would be at a loss to find a quiet corner. However, here are some tourist tips for having a peaceful visit to the Spanish Steps-
1. Visit Early in the Day: It's more effective to avoid the crowd when you can visit early in the day, preferably mornings from 7-10 am.
2. Night Visits for the Quietude: The night adds a somewhat romantic aura to the Spanish Square and the surrounding monuments. Also, you will be able to click beautiful silhouettes.
3. Flowers of Spring: Springtime finds the stairway and terraces of the Spanish Steps sprinkled with vibrant blooms.
4. Do Not Visit in July and August: The soaring tourist crowds at Rome during these months rob the famous sites like the Spanish Steps of its charms.
5. Make Some Effort and Climb to the Top: Come fit and prepared to clamber up along the steep incline to admire the Piazza di Spagna visible down below and the Trinita dei Monti Church commanding a magnificent 90-degree view.