Interesting Facts About the Spanish Steps and Tips to Enjoy Your Visit

One of the unmissable places to visit in Rome if it’s your first trip, the Spanish Steps are often mistaken for benches to sit, relax, eat, drink and enjoy the view of the square at the bottom. An important historical landmark in Rome city center, I welcomed the recent decision of the local municipality to ban sitting on the stairs as good news so we can all finally see this impressive stairwell in all its beauty and majesty. And this is why it’s also important to know some Spanish Steps facts that will help us appreciate the place even more.

Rome Spanish Steps: What You Should Know to Enjoy Your Visit

Spanish Steps Facts: History and Trivia

spanish steps rome
The Spanish Steps and Trinità dei Monti church
  1. The steps of the Trinità dei Monti staircase (Spanish Steps) are 136.
  2. Commissioned by the Cardinal de Tencin, they were inaugurated by Pope Benedict XIII during the Jubilee Year 1725.
  3. The Spanish Steps were paid with French funds and its purpose was to connect the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Trinità dei Monti church.
  4. Trinità dei Monti is one of the five francophone churches in Rome. The others are the famous Saint Louis of the French, where you can see three Caravaggio paintings, San Nicola dei Lorenesi, Sant’Ivo dei Bretoni and Santi Claudio e Andrea dei Borgognoni.
  5. Where today is the Trinità dei Monti church in imperial times was the wonderful villa of the Horti Luculliani, one of the most beautiful in ancient Rome.
  6. Even though the Spanish Steps were initially funded with a donation from the French Etienne Gueffier in 1660, the construction ended only in 1726.
  7. English poet John Keats died at 25 years old in a house in the palace on the right corner of the Spanish Steps where he spent the last months of his life.
  8. On the left corner of the Spanish Steps is the famous Babington’s Tea Rooms founded in 1893 by two English women.

Must-see Landmarks Around the Spanish Steps

La Barcaccia Fountain

barcaccia fountain piazza di spagna
La Barcaccia Fountain in Piazza di Spagna

This is probably the first thing you will see when you get to Piazza di Spagna, especially if you arrive from the bottom, so streets like Via dei Condotti, Via del Babuino or Via Borgognona. This is a beautiful travertine sculpture commissioned by Pope Urban VIII in 1627 to Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Italian architect and artist Gian Lorenzo, who also took part in designing and building the fountain.

Completed in 1629, La Barcaccia Fountain in Piazza di Spagna required a fine work of engineering due to the low pressure of the aqueduct feeding the fountain, the one of the Aqua Virgo, the same of the Trevi Fountain. This is why Bernini realised a half-submerged oval-shaped tub slightly below street level with the two edges raising higher and several points from where the water gushes out.

The fountain is beautifully decorated with sculptures and coat of arms of popes and the Barberini noble family, the dynasty of Pope Urban VIII who commissioned it.

John Keats’ House

Not many know that English poet John Keats spent his last months right here in a house on the right side of the Spanish Steps, where he died February 23rd 1821.

He arrived in Rome with the hope to recover from his diagnosed tuberculosis but even despite the help of his friend Joseph Severn and the cures of his doctor James Clark, he died at only 25 years old. He’s buried in Rome’s Non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio area.

Today the house has been turned into the Keats-Shelley Museum and displays a rich collection of sculptures, paintings, objects and first editions of the works of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Check out their website for more info.

Antico Caffè Greco

This is not your average coffee shop, but a historical place where artists, writers, and important figures liked to meet and enjoy their relaxing time since 1760, 100 years before Rome became the capital of unified Italy.

Antico Caffè Greco (Via dei Condotti 86) is now a coffeeshop-museum where its interior, including the couches, chairs, and relics on display, is protected by the Culture Ministry. The owner recently evicted the historical manager because he wasn’t ready to pay the much higher rent imposed in the new contract, and since now they can’t find new tenants to manage this historical coffee shop, I suggest you visit before they shut it down and replace it with a dull fast-food.

Babington’s Tea Rooms

Babington’s (Piazza di Spagna 23) is a lovely historical tea house founded in 1893 by two young English women, Isabel Cargill and Anna Maria Babington, a descendant of Anthony Babington, one of the conspirators together with John Ballard, of the Babington Plot in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.

Isabel and Anna Maria decided to move to Rome and make a decent living in a city they both loved. What better idea than founding a typical British tea house in the historic center where many English intellectuals and artists loved to spend their time?

Today you can sit in the tea room for some tea and also a casual light lunch or by some of their unique tea blends from their shop.

Villa Borghese

One of Rome’s largest and most famous parks, Villa Borghese is a fantastic place for relaxing as well as sightseeing. A green oasis in the very city center, here you can relax on a bench, on the grass, have a walk, go jogging or visit the famous Galleria Borghese museum.

Villa Borghese has several other buildings and areas to visit. You can visit the small museum of contemporary art Carlo Bilotti in the park’s orangery, the Temple of Aesculapius in the lovely Lake Garden (Giardino del Lago), and obviously enjoy the beautiful view of Piazza del Popolo from the Pincio terrace.

Tips on How To Enjoy Your Visit to Rome Spanish Steps

  • Go early morning. Before the crowds arrive you can enjoy the Spanish Steps in all their beauty. Typical Baroque-style architecture, you will love admiring the interplay of perspectives and bends that make it unique.
  • Go in the evening. If you can’t make it in the morning, try in the evening. It’s a different experience and it will be busier than the first hours of the day but for sure less busy than mid-day and with a fantastic night light that will make it incredibly fascinating.
  • Climb it to the top. This way you can have a fantastic view of the Piazza di Spagna square, the buildings flanking it, its Baroque-style Barcaccia fountain and the exclusive shopping streets unravelling from there.
  • Visit its landmarks. All around the Spanish Steps are several landmarks so the best way to enjoy your visit is to make the most out of it. Why not visit John Keats’ house-museum? Why not have a tea in the historical Babington’s or a gourmet coffee at the Antico Caffè Greco? And why not visit the fantastic Trinità dei Monti church and cloister?
  • Avoid the summer months. I get it, for many of you, July and August are the only months you can have a holiday and travel. But still, it’s good to know that if you can avoid these months, you will definitely enjoy the Spanish Steps more deeply without the usual summer brigades.

Where To Eat Around The Spanish Steps

  • Ginger Sapori e Salute (Via Borgognona 43/46). Large restaurant relatively new but immediately successful, this is a perfect stop during your sightseeing for a healthy and tasty lunch. You can order anything from a smoothie to a gourmet panini, to full dishes made with organic ingredients.
  • Il Margutta (Via Margutta 118). Delicious and historic vegetarian restaurant in Rome city center where you can have buffet-style brunch/lunch, aperitif and dinner.
  • Retrobottega (Via della Stelletta 4). Typical Italian dishes prepared and served with a modern twist.
  • Da Gino al Parlamento (Vicolo Rosini 4). Traditional Roman cuisine a stone’s throw from the Parliament. Here you can try local dishes such as spaghetti all’amatriciana, spaghetti carbonara, saltimbocca alla romana, and coda alla vaccinara.

Where to Stay Near the Spanish Steps

READ MORE: Check out our guide to the top hotels in Rome city center.

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