Rome attractions: The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps (or Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti) were built in an era where people took a holistic approach to city planning (and large areas of Rome still belonged to the Vatican).

They are perched on a high point so that when you walk along Via dei Monti and approach the Spanish Steps, you will see the Tiber behind you. They dominate your field of view with Trinita dei Monti looking down at you from the top.

They are named after the church which sits atop of them, but generations of visitors have found it easier to identify them simply by the Piazza at the feet – Piazza di Spagna.

Our Welcome to Rome tour will give you an inside look at the city’s history and take you to the Spanish Steps and other major sights.

A Brief History of the Spanish Steps

The problem was a hill with a forest. This was the problem faced by the builders of Rome in the 17th century. It was the barrier that separated the Trinita dei Monti, a newly built church, and the Piazza di Spagna. The latter was named after the Bourbon Spanish Embassy which stood beside it.

France and Spain had reached peace and the French wanted to make a symbol connection. This hill was actually restricting their style. Francesco de Sanctis (a lesser-known sculptor) won the competition for the best design. The Spanish Steps were then created.

It is not clear how much Alessandro Specchi contributed, but we know that the final result is one the most impressive public works in Europe. Two of Rome’s most charming monuments, Fontana della Barcaccia and the Sallustian Obelisk, are also part of the 135-step staircase.

John Keats, a Romantic writer of the 19th Century, was the first foreigner to make the steps popular. He died in a house that overlooked them. From Audrey Hepburn’s A RomanHoliday, to Ray Romano’s Everyone Loves Raymond, everyone has made the Spanish Steps a part of their Roman adventures.

Things to do near the Spanish Steps

Fontana della Barcaccia & the Sallustian Obelisk

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Piazza di Spagna was flooded by record floods in 1598. According to this story, an old boat that floated through the streets was finally brought to rest.

The unfortunate boat is believed to have inspired the fountain that Pope Urban VIII commissioned and was sculpted jointly by Pietro Bernini, his son, and the great Gian Lorenzo Bernini. We won’t know what kind of boat it was, but the sculpture shows something similar to a galleon that is half-sunk and spilling water over its sides.

The Sallustian Obelisk is the lord of this sculpture, and it can be found at the top the Spanish Step. It is a great stone plinth, which looks just like the many Egyptian obelisks Roman emperors brought all the way from Egypt. However, it is actually a clever Roman copy. Even going so far as to replicate hieroglyphics from one of Rome’s most renowned Obelisks, Flaminio Obelisk.

Keats–Shelley Memorial House

Italy was a major cultural and visual inspiration for Romantic writers and artists in the 18th and 19th century. You can walk in the footsteps of Shelley or Byron in Lake Como, follow the Goethe path in Sicily and look for D.H. Lawrence in the Amalfi Coast’s lemon groves.

John Keat’s House overlooking Rome’s Spanish Steps is the best place to view the Romantics. It is important to note that this house is more his house of death (from tuberculosis), than the one he lived in. However, it is fitting that John Keat’s House overlooking the Spanish Steps is now a museum for the Romantics.

This is the place to find perhaps the largest collection of memorabilia worldwide from this amazing generation of mostly English artists.

Take a moment to listen to the Fontana della Barcaccia’s water rushing through your ears while you are inside. According to legend, the sound soothed Keats while he was dying. It was also the inspiration for the line on his epitaph:

The Church of the Santissima Trinita dei Monti

One of many quirks in Roman history is that the Trinita dei Monti has been maintained by France. It’s perhaps the most well-known French church not located in France. Although its exterior and the crowning position at the Spanish Steps is more well-known than its interior, the church does have a stunning painting of the Depositionby Daniele Da Volterra.

Volterra is a joke among art historians, partly because he was forced to paint trousers and loincloths on the nude figures of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement at the Sistine Chapel. His nickname ever since? Il Braghettone or, “The Trouser Maker.”


It is now forbidden to sit on the Spanish Steps. They are also prohibited from being eaten or written on and can result in heavy fines. Although it may seem harsh, these measures were put in place to protect historic monuments and landmarks within the city.

Opening Times

The Spanish Steps are an open-air public building that is accessible year-round, with the exception of renovations.

The Best Times to Visit the Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps are a popular attraction in Rome and they are always busy. You will need to get up early to enjoy them, or stay up later than usual. But it is possible. You can expect little privacy if you are there between 9:00am to 1:00am.

Read More These 14 Piazzas in Italy Every Traveler Must See

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