Thursday, 6 January 2011

Rome: Part 7 - "Scalinata di Spagna" (The Spanish Steps)

One of the most popular places to meet in Rome is by the Piazza di Spagna, where you will find the Spanish Steps. Known as the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti or simply Scalinata di Spagna, it consists of 138 steps designed to link the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, located in Palazzo Monaldeschi in the piazza below, leading up to the  French church  Trinita dei Monti, which was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France. The steps were built under the auspices of a French diplomat from 1723-1725.
On the avenue at the top of the steps, Viale della Trinita dei Monti, to the right is the VIlla Medici - considered as one of Rome's best pieces of real state with one of the best views of the city. The palazzo was built for Cardinal Ricci da Montepulciano in 1540. It's ownership was transferred to Ferdinando dei Medici when he bought it n 1576, and in 1801 Napoleon acquired it for the French Academy. 

The French Academy was founded in 1666 to provide a place of learning for the talented French artists, writers and musicians, to afford them an opportunity to be exposed to the classical heritage that Rome had to offer.
To the left of the avenue from the church, is a series of luxury, five-star hotels, such as The Hassler Villa Medici, where you can have a fine-dining experience while enjoying the magnificent, panoramic view of Rome, at their top-floor restaurant.
In the 18th century, this was an artist's haven. The most beautiful Italian women and men gathered here in the hopes of being chosen as artist's models. Today, the steps may look like a good place to sit and eat. Sorry, eating is not allowed.

The steps have also been used as the setting for concerts

At Christmas time, a 19th century crib is displayed on the first landing of the staircase. On new year's eve, this is the place to be for the countdown. In the month of May, part of the steps are covered by blooming azalea plants.
There is an early Baroque boat-shaped fountain in the center of the piazza,  Fontana della Barcaccia ("Fountain of the Old Boat"), built in 1627-29. It is believed to be the work of Pietro Bernini. 

At the base of the steps, to the right, is a house where the englis poet, John Keats, lived and died. It is now a museum dedicated to his memory.
One of the streets leading up to the piazza is Via Condotti, a shopping delight with boutiques of famous,  big-name Italian Fashion houses - Valentino, Versace, Armani, Fendi, Cavalli, as well as other international fashion brands.
After window-shopping on Via Condotti, having some roasted chestnuts in the piazza, we made it to the top of the steps, to visit the church.

When you come to Rome, don't miss visiting the Piazza di Spagna, where people watching can be quite an interesting experience, and shopping of course! To me, the construction of the Spanish Steps was a very ingenious idea of connecting the high grounds to the low grounds, by Francesco De Sanctis. 

One of the streets leading up to the piazza is Via Condotti, a shopping delight with boutiques of famous,   big-name Italian Fashion houses - Valentino, Versace, Armani, Fendi, Cavalli, as well as other international fashion brands.

As the Christmas season comes to a close, may I wish you all Happy Three Kings. If you can't make it to Rome, take a virtual tour on this site

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