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16 February 2011

The Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna)

"The Spanish Steps (Italian: Scalinata della 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 church of Trinità dei Monti. The Scalinata is the widest staircase in Europe.[1]

The monumental stairway of 138 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725, linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, today still located in Palazzo Monaldeschi in the piazza below, with the Trinità dei Monti the church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, above. It was designed by Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi.

In the Piazza at the base is the Early Baroque fountain called Fontana della Barcaccia ("Fountain of the Old Boat"), 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 an unlikely legend, Pope Urban VIII had the fountain installed after he had been impressed by a boat brought here by a flood of the Tiber river.


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 Viale ramps up the Pincio which is the Pincian Hill, omitted, like the Janiculum, from the classic Seven hills of Rome. From the top of the steps the Villa Medici can be reached." 

Figure 1: The Spanish Steps


 
Figure 2:


Figure 3:  Piazza di Spagna



Figure 4:  Horse drawn carriage rides on offer at the Piazza di Spagna.


Note:  I do not wish to confuse the readers of this blog.  As I had mentioned in a previous blog, I am now back in Tunis but I still have several blog posts to write about my time in Rome.
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