The Spanish Steps, Rome: all you need to know

by marta
Spanish Steps Rome with flowers in spring

All you need to know about the Spanish Steps in Rome. Fun facts, tips for visiting, best tours and hotels in the area.

The Spanish steps are one of the most famous monuments in Rome.

They tower above the square by the same name, Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish steps in Italian are called ‘Scalinata di Piazza di Spagna’) and they never fail to impress.

Large, beautiful and iconic, the Spanish steps elicit in first-time visitors the same marvel and wide-eyed reaction Audry Hepburn masterfully portraited in the movie ‘A Roman Holiday’ and are a Rome must-see no Rome itinerary can leave out.

These are my tips tips for visiting the Spanish steps and some interesting and fun facts about them.

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What are the Spanish Steps and where are they

The Spanish Steps are a monumental stairway located in Piazza di Spagna, in Rome city center (the name of the neighborhood is Rione Colonna).

The closest metro station is “Spagna” which leaves you right beside the steps and several bus routes serve the area. 

The closest bus stops to the Spanish steps are: Metro A Spagna, Bus 61, 63, 80, 85, 170, 590, 913, H

The whole area is closed to occasional traffic but does have residents’ cars, taxi and vehicles with special permits.

The best way to visit is on foot.

How to visit the Spanish steps: hours and cost

The Spanish steps are a passageway between Piazza di Spagna and the church of Trinita’ de’ Monti and are free to visit.

Access is possible day and night and no tickets are necessary.  The steps are beautiful to see and they are also a beautiful panoramic point to get good views over Rome.

Fun fact: in the movie A Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck savor a gelato on the steps. While this was possible at the time, recently new regulations made sitting and eating on the Spanish steps illegal! Abide by the rule as fines are steep and the steps are precious.

The best time to visit

The steps can be visited any time of the day and night however, some times are better than others.

The early evening, just before sunset, is a lovely time to visit and catch a view, while at night, when the lights are on, is my favorite time to visit the stairs themselves and leisurely take in their elaborate beauty.

The worst time to visit the Spanish steps is usually lunchtime and the early afternoon, when visitors and street sellers tend to abound, making the whole area less relaxing if not downright annoying. 

Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) Rome with fountain at the forefront and the steps and the church of Trinita' dei Monti in the background

Fun and interesting facts about the Spanish steps

The Spanish steps were built 1723-1725 by architect Francesco de Sanctis who received the commission for the building work by Pope Clemens XI.

While the project didn’t see the light until the early XVIII century, this was not the first time the idea of creating a staiwell between Trinita’ dei Monti and Piazza di Spagna was discussed.

Documents tell us that the idea was already explored in the mid-1500s and we know that in the 1600s several projects were proposed, including one by Bernini.

However, disputes between the French and the Vatican over ownership of the land delayed the building work the steps were finally inaugurated by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726.

 The project was financed by a French diplomat, Stefano Gueffier, and took their name from the Spanish embassy to the holy see that was and still is on the square.  

The Spanish steps in Rome count 136 steps.

What to see nearby

The Spanish steps dominate Piazza di Spagna however, they are not the only thing to see here. In Piazza di Spagna it is also worth seeing:

La fontana della barcaccia (barcaccia fountan) fountain

At the bottom of the Spanish steps lies one of the most famous fountains in Rome, called ‘la barcaccia’.

The fountain was built by Bernini (both father Pietro Bernini and son, the famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini) and represents a shipwreck, in remembrance of the time when the Tiber overflew and, it is said brought a destroyed vessel up to this very location.

The water comes from the ‘Acquedotto Vergine’ (Aqua Virgo), the same aqueduct that brings water to the Trevi Fountain and that dates back to ancient Roman times.

The fountain is low in height and, when the square gets busy, may not seem too impressive, however, it is worth seeing as the details are wonderful. The attentive eye will see the carving of bees, the symbol of the Barberini family who commissioned the build.

Barcaccia Fountain at the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Italy

Trinita’ dei Monti church

The church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, towers above piazza di Spagna with two distinctive belltowers that give the square and the steps their iconic look.

The church dates back to the XVI century and sits on what used to be a vineyard.

The church is under the tutelage of the French Embassy to the Holy See and is worth a visit.

It has beautiful frescoes and chapel and a convent both, in normal times, open to visitors (please note this has changed in 2020, check the church website for details)

Babington tea room

Tea Rooms may not strike as the most roman of places.

However, Babington’s tea house is a bit of an institution in Rome.

It was established I 1893 by Isabel Cargill and Mria Babington and, since then, has served tea to refined clientele in the eternal city from its glorious locations on Piazza di Spagna.

Keats – Shelley House

Walking up the steps, you will notice a small, pretty building overlooking the steps.

This house used to be a pension and room rental place that once hosted the poet John Keats, who spent here his last few days.

Nowadays it is a museum dedicated to English Romantics and still hosts the room where Keats died (if you love the poet, you may also want to go visit his grave in the stunning Protestant Cemetery of Rome).

Obelisco Sallustiano

The steps are surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk, called Obelisco Sallustiano.

The obelisk is one of the 13 ancient obelisks in Rome and was built by the Romans following the Egyptian style so popular I the city and that also gave us the peculiar Rome Pyramid.

Obelisk in front of Trinita' dei MOnti, Spanish Steps Rome

Best hotels near the Spanish steps

The area around Piazza di Spagna and the steps is central and one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in Rome on a first visit.

It it, however, an elegant location, with high-end hotels, shops and restaurants so it is most suited to visitors with a generous budget.

Some of the best hotels near the Spanish Steps are (the links lead you to booking.com, a platform I trust and that tend to offer the best cancellation options even at short notice)

Roccoforte Hotel de la Ville (luxury)

Hassler Hotel Roma (luxury)

Hotel Scalinata di Spagna (3-star hotel at the top of the steps)

Casa Fabbrini boutique B&B

Internazionale Domus (3-star hotel on Piazza di Spagna)

Crossing Condotti (4-star hotel close to the steps and in the heart of Rome’s most elegant shopping district)

The Inn at the Spanish Steps (4-star hotel with panoramic views of the Spanish Steps from the terrace)

Roccoforte Hotel De Russie (luxury)

Piazza di Spagna 9 (boutique hotel)

Hotel San Carlo (3 star hotel)

Rome walking tours

Many Rome walking tours include this area. Some worth checking out are:

Rome hop-on hop-off bus tours also bring you close to the Spanish Steps Please note that, in Rome city centre, you will do a lot of walking and comfortable shoes are a must.

You can find my recommended walking shoes for Rome here.

I hope you found this article interesting and useful. Love from Rome x

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