The Spanish Steps - History and Facts | History Hit

The Spanish Steps

Rome, Lazio, Italy

The Spanish Steps are an eighteenth century staircase and a focal point for Rome’s tourists.

Peta Stamper

28 Apr 2021

About The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) are one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. A grand staircase with 138 steps leading down to the Piazza di Spagna, the Spanish Steps were designed in the 1720s by Italian architect Francesco de Sanctis and completed in 1726.

A popular spot since the 18th and 19th centuries, today this beautiful staircase continually buzzes with tourists and leads to Rome’s most upmarket shopping area.

The Spanish Steps history

In the 1580s, Pope Gregory XIII wanted to build an impressive staircase to complete the facade of the French church, Trinità dei Monti, which was patronised by the French king. The church would be linked by the stairs with the Piazza di Spagna square of the Spanish Embassy, giving the steps their name. Plans to build the steps were continually delayed. It was not until 1660 that French diplomat to the Holy See Etienne Gueffier died leaving a considerable fortune to fund the staircase’s construction.

Cardinal Mazarin entrusted the project to his agent in Rome, planning to add an equestrian monument to the then King of France, Louis XIV – much to the papacy’s horror. However, these invested parties (Mazarin and the pope) died shortly after initiating plans, leaving the building project to Pope Clement XI who renewed it in the 18th century.

The winner of a 1717 competition, Francesco de Sanctis, was chosen to build the steps due to his French design. The monumental steps were built between 1723 and 1725, and the final design reflected the conventions of terraced garden stairs, decorated with Bourbon fleur-de-lys and Innocent XIII’s eagle and crown details.

The steps led down to the 17th century early Baroque style fountain, Fontana della Barcaccia. The fountain was apparently modelled on a boat that caught the pope’s attention after landing in the spot during a flood of the River Tiber, catching the pope’s attention.

The Spanish Steps today

Today, the 300 years old steps – the widest in Europe – continue to dominate this square surrounded by 18th century buildings and blooming hot pink azaleas during springtime. While you cannot stop on the steps to eat lunch because the Roman people have forbade it, it is still a great spot to pause and admire the grandeur of the city’s papal history.

At the right-hand corner of the steps is also the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821. It now holds a museum dedicated to his work and the English Romantic era. You can also spot the steps when watching the iconic 1953 film, ‘Roman Holiday’.

Getting to The Spanish Steps

The steps are easily reached from Rome’s subway, getting off at stops Spagna (a 2 minute walk away) or Barberini – Fontana di Trevi (an 8 minute walk). The closest bus stop is Spagna on route 119, a 2 minute walk around the corner. Otherwise, catch the stairs on one of the city’s many segway tours.