Spanish Steps

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Cooperativa IL SOGNO - Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/ - Fax 06/

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The area was called in the 18th century Roman slang "er ghetto de l'inglesi" (the English ghetto), because it was the preferred area of the English artists and of the tourists of the Grand Tour. It was Pope Sixtus V, the great town-planner, who set the architecture layout.
The famous Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti)   by Francesco De Sanctis (1723-1726) is made by twelve flights of steps of varying width moving upwards towards the Piazza Trinità dei Monti. Before the steps there is a fountain, the ingenious large boat "Barcaccia" , spouting water while it sinks.

One of the most characteristic squares in the city, the Pi­azza di Spagna, stretches out for over 270 meters, divided into two triangular areas. It is surrounded by outstanding buildings, such as the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, seat of the Congregation of Propagsanda Fide instituted by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. The facade on the square is by Bernini (1644) and is subdivided in three floors. The sober, elegant design is in brick. The more complex facade at the side however is by Borromini (1665) and is concave in the center. It's articulated by pilaster strips which reach up to the first floor where unique concave windows are set off by columns and pilasters. The large portal leads to the vestibule with, nearby, Borromini's Adoration of the Magi (dei Re Magi, 1666). The restrained luminous interior has a fine Adoration of the Magi by Giacinto Gemignani (1643). Another noteworthy complex is the Palazzo di Spagna, built by A. Del Grande, which has an important facade with lovely portals tied together by severe rustication. 

The square is centered on the Barcaccia Fountain, by Pietro Bernini (1627-1629), an ingenious and lively representation of a large boat which is sinking and spouting water from both stern and prow. Piazza di Spagna is where the famous Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti) begin. 

Built entirely in travertine by Francesco De Sanctis (1723-1726) the twelve flights of steps of varying widths branch off in various blocks as they move upward towards the Piazza Trinita dei Monti. In front of the square is the Salustian Obelisk which comes from the Sallustiain Gardens. The square is dominated by the powerful struc­tures of the Church of Trinita dei Monti, one of the most imposing Franciscan churches in the city. Begun in 1503 at the request of Louis XII, the church has been remodeled various times. The sober facade, by Carlo Maderno, with a single order of pilasters and a broad portal with columns and a large balustrade, is preceded by a staircase by Domenico Fontana that is decorated with capitals and antique bas-reliefs. The interior has a single large nave and contains fine works of art including a lovely fresco with Stories of St. John the Baptist by Naldini, in the first chapel on the right; Daniele da Volterra's famous and brilliant Assumption, in the third chapel on the right. The second chapel on the left contains the Deposition, another masterpiece by Daniele da Volterra, and in the sixth chapel on the left, Perin del Vaga' s Assumption and Isaiah and Daniel (on the front of the tomb), Taddeo Zuccari's Death of Maria and the Assumption by Federico and Taddeo Zuccari. Another outstanding work by Federico Zuccari, the Coronation of the Virgin, is in the chapel to the left of the presbytery. The Cloister contains frescoes by various artists with Stories from the life of Saint Francis of Paola.    

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps (Italian: Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) are a set of steps in Rome, Italy, and they compromise a majestic double staircase that cascades down the slopes of the Pincio Hill from the church of Trinità dei Monti. The Scalinata is "without a doubt the longest and widest staircase in all Europe."

The monumental stairway of 138 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier's bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 17231725, linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, today still located in Palazzo Monaldeschi in the piazza below, with the Trinità dei Monti above.

Design and building
Following a competition in 1717 the steps were designed by the little-known Francesco de Sanctis, though Alessandro Specchi was long thought to have produced the winning entry. Archival drawings from the 1580s show that Pope Gregory XIII was interested in constructing a stair to the recently-completed facade 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.

Today's uses
During Christmas time a 19th-century crib is displayed on the first landing of the staircase. During May, part of the steps are covered by pots of azaleas. 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. 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. American singer/songwriter Bob Dylan refers to the "Spanish Stairs" in his classic "When I Paint My Masterpiece" (1971).

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.

Piazza di Spagna
On the Piazza its base is the Early Baroque fountain called La 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.

Fontana della Barcaccia can be seen from the top of the Spanish Steps. The narrow Via Condotti, home to many of Rome's designer shops, rounds up the picture. On 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. From the top of the steps the Villa Medici can be reached.

On June 13, 2007, a 24-year-old Colombian man attempted to drive a Toyota Celica down the Spanish Steps at high speed. Eyewitnesses said people had to dive out of the way to avoid being hit by the car. No one was hurt, but several of the 200-year-old steps were chipped and scuffed. The driver was arrested and a breath test showed his blood alcohol content to be twice the legal limit for driving.

On January 16, 2008, Graziano Cecchini, an anarchic artist, covered the steps with hundreds of thousands of multicolored plastic balls. He claimed that it was done to make the world notice the situation of the Karen people in Burma, and as a protest against the conditions of artists in Italy.


Info and reservation:

Cooperativa IL SOGNO - Viale Regina Margherita, 192 - 00198 ROMA
Tel. 06/ - Fax 06/

Email :

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