The Spanish Steps (Italian: Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti) are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.
The monumental stairway of 135 steps (the slightly elevated drainage system is often mistaken for the first step) was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier's bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725, linking the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of Francelocated aboveand the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy Seelocated belowin Palazzo Monaldeschi. The stairway was designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi.
The piazza di Spagna in an 18th-century etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, seen from south. The street on the left is Via del Babuino, leading to Piazza del Popolo.
Following a competition in 1717, the steps were designed by the obscure Francesco de Sanctis, though Alessandro Specchi was long thought to have produced the winning entry. Generations of heated debate over how the steep slope to the church on a shoulder of the Pincio should be urbanized preceded the final execution. Archival drawings from the 1580s show that Pope Gregory XIII was interested in constructing a stair to the recently completed façade of the French church. Gaspar van Wittel's view of the wooded slope in 1683, before the Scalinata was built, is conserved in the Galleria Nazionale, Rome. The Roman-educated Cardinal Mazarin took a personal interest in the project that had been stipulated in Gueffier's will and entrusted it to his agent in Rome, whose plan included an equestrian monument of Louis XIV, an ambitious intrusion that created a furore in papal Rome. Mazarin died in 1661, the pope in 1667, and Gueffier's will was successfully contested by a nephew who claimed half; so the project lay dormant until Pope Clement XI Albani renewed interest in it. The Bourbon fleur-de-lys and Innocent XIII's eagle and crown are carefully balanced in the sculptural details. The solution is a gigantic inflation of some conventions of terraced garden stairs. The Spanish Steps, which Joseph de Lalande and Charles de Brosses noted were already in poor condition, have been restored several times, most recently in 1995. A new renovation commenced on October 8, 2015 and the steps reopened on September 21, 2016.
Piazza di Spagna
In the Piazza di Spagna at the base is the Early Baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia ("Fountain of the longboat"), built in 1627–29 and often credited to Pietro Bernini, father of a more famous son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who is recently said to have collaborated on the decoration. The elder Bernini had been the pope's architect for the Acqua Vergine, since 1623. According to a legend, Pope Urban VIII had the fountain installed after he had been impressed by a boat brought here by a flood of the Tiber.
In the piazza, at the corner on the right as one begins to climb the steps, is the house where English poet John Keats lived and died in 1821; it is now a museum dedicated to his memory, full of memorabilia of the English Romantic generation. On the same right side stands the 15th-century former cardinal Lorenzo Cybo de Mari's palace, now Ferrari di Valbona, a building altered in 1936 to designs by Marcello Piacentini, the main city planner during Fascism, with modern terraces perfectly in harmony with the surrounding baroque context.
At the top, the stairway ramp up the Pincio which is the Pincian Hill. From the top of the steps the Villa Medici can be reached.
During Christmas time a 19th-century criba manger is displayed on the first landing of the staircase. During Springtime, just before the anniversary of the foundation of Rome, April 21, part of the steps are covered by pots of azaleas, up until early May. In modern times the Spanish Steps have included a small cut-flower market. The steps are not a place for eating lunch, being forbidden by Roman urban regulations, but they are usually crowded with people.
The Steps are featured in numerous scenes in Alfred Bester's novel The Stars My Destination (1956).
The Steps are featured in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, Tender Is the Night (1933).
The Steps are featured in Anthony Burgess' novel, Abba Abba (1977).
The Steps are featured in Tom Clancy's novel, "The Teeth of the Tiger" (2003).
The Spanish Steps. Note: the cream-colored building partially visible at the extreme right edge includes the apartment where John Keats lived, now the Keats-Shelley Memorial House.
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In film and TV
The film Roman Holiday (1953), starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, made the Spanish Steps famous to an American audience.
The apartment that was the setting for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) is halfway up on the right. Bernardo Bertolucci's Besieged (1998) is also set in a house next to the Steps. The Steps were featured prominently in the film version of The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), starring Matt Damon in the title role.
In an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond which aired on October 2, 2000, Ray, Debra, Frank, and Marie climb the Spanish Steps during a family vacation in Rome.
An episode of the anime series Gunslinger Girl, entitled "Gelato (Ice Cream)," which first aired in 2003, features the protagonist by the Spanish Steps having her "reward" of ice cream after having completed a successful raid.
In the film To Rome with Love (2012), Hayley (Alison Pill) and Michelangelo Santoli (Flavio Parenti) met on the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps were the setting of a 'Roadblock' task during The Amazing Race 24 (2014) in which contestants had to count the steps.
The Spanish Steps are featured in a scene in the film The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015), in which Illya (Armie Hammer), posing as a Russian architect, attempts to explain to Gaby (Alicia Vikander) that the Steps were actually made by a Russian architect.
Midway through the animated film Love Live! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow (2019), the Steps were featured prominently as the site where the main idol group Aqours performed the main musical number of the film, "Hop? Stop? Nonstop!," during their overseas trip from Numazu, Japan to Rome.
The progressive rock group Refugee recorded the song "Credo" in 1974, which contains the lyric: "I believe in constant pauses / Like a Roman holiday / And I often stop for air / As I climb the Spanish stairs".
The Bob Dylan song "When I Paint My Masterpiece," first recorded in 1971 by The Band and later appearing on the album Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, mentions both the "Spanish Stairs" and the Colosseum. Norwegian singer/songwriter Morten Harket, from A-ha, released a song called "Spanish Steps" on his album Wild Seedin 1995.
Marc Cohn's song "Walk Through the World", released in 1993 on the album The Rainy Season, includes the lyric "From the Spanish Steps to the Liberty Bell, I know the angels have seen us."
The opening track of Van Morrison's 1986 album Poetic Champions Compose is an instrumental titled "Spanish Steps" that features a haunting, evocative saxophone throughout.
Singer/songwriter Eric Andersen's album Ghosts Upon the Road (1989) includes his song "Spanish Steps", which begins with an invitation to his old love to "Meet me on the Spanish Steps / Oh you will not wait long". He goes on to recall their first meeting on the streets of Rome years ago: "You were young and your eyes were bright / Your cheeks were flush and fair / We were high, too high on the Spanish Steps / I can see you standing there".
The title song from Guy Clark's Dublin Blues album (1995) contains the lyric: "I loved you on the Spanish Steps / The day you said goodbye".
North American and Japanese versions of the Mindfields album, released in 1999 by the American rock band Toto, include the song "Spanish Steps of Rome" as a bonus track. The song describes a femme fatale romance that takes place on and around the Spanish Steps.
In 2005, the American rock band Of A Revolution released "One Shot" from their album Stories of a Stranger, which contains the lyrics "Rome is burning, you can taste the embers / I am walking hard on Spanish Steps".
In 2007, John Tesh of Entertainment Tonight fame recorded an instrumental tune called "Spanish Steps" on his A Passionate Life album.
On 16 January 2008, the Italian artist Graziano Cecchini covered the Spanish Steps with hundreds of thousands of multicolored plastic balls. He claimed it was done to raise international awareness of the situation of the Karen people in Myanmar, and as a protest against the living conditions of artists in Italy.
On 9 November 2009, a multimedia event was held on the Steps to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; the event included the erection of replicas of parts of the wall.