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Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps (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.

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.

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, but they are usually crowded with people. 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

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.

Events and trivia

On March 20, 1986, the first McDonalds restaurant in Italy was opened near the Spanish Steps. Protests there against fast food led to Carlo Petrini founding the international Slow Food movement three years later.

On June 13, 2007, a 24-year-old Colombian man attempted to drive a Toyota Celica down the Spanish Steps. 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 was twice the legal limit for driving.

On January 16, 2008, Graziano Cecchini, a right-wing 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 Myanmar, and as a protest against the conditions of artists in Italy.

On 9 November 2009 to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a multimedia event was held on the steps which included the erection of replicas of parts of the wall.

Monuments and root places

*Keats-Shelley Memorial House
*Giorgio De Chirico House
*Babington's tea room


Source: Wikipedia