Piazza di Spagna in Rome Jeremy Vandel

Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna is one of the most romantic and evocative sights in the Eternal City, as well as the most well-known meeting point in Rome. Its beautiful scenery has acted as a backdrop to many performances, fashion shows, events, and even floral exhibits.

Piazza di Spagna, with its famous Spanish Steps and several other artworks adorning it, is one of the symbols of Rome, as well as one of the most famous squares of the capital.

In the heart of the city center, it is considered a key place for art aficionados, but also for those interested in fashion and luxury brands. The square owes its name to the Palazzo di Spagna, which is located here and houses the Spanish Embassy.

Brief history of Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square in English) did not initially go by this name, it was instead known as Piazza di Francia, meaning French Square. This magnificent building had in fact become a symbol of the rivalry between the two European powers. What really makes it famous though, are the wonderful steps, and these were not added until the early 1700s.

In this section, you can find out more about the history of this monument and about the many famous artists, poets, and authors who lived here throughout its history.

Renaissance (1492 - 1789)

Piazza di Spagna is part of the Colonna and the Campo Marzio district, between Via dei Due Macelli and Via del Babuino. The construction of this area dates back to the 16th century. The main objective was having a space that could hold the large number of pilgrims visiting medieval Rome. At the time, other public spaces were struggling to do so.

A new route was then engineered, welcoming and gathering visitors arriving from the north of the city, through Porta del Popolo and towards the Vatican.

To the north, the square met Via San Sebastianello, which split into two at its top. To the right, it went towards the Franciscan church of Trinità dei Monti, and to its left, it went towards Villa Medici. Both of these were located at the top of the Colle Pincio (Pincio Hill).

The other important street was Via del Babuino, through which northern visitors were led from the Porta del Popolo gate, through the square, into the city center.

Through time, the square acquired its famous butterfly shape—that is, two triangles whose vertices meet in the middle. These are tied together by the line that runs through Via Condotti - Barcaccia Fountain - Trinità dei Monti. The square used to be surrounded by houses with tall windows, in the typical ocher, cream, and rusty red tones. Over time, it started filling up with hotels.

The current structure of the area started becoming clearer in the 1500s when the Trinità dei Monti church and its twin bell towers were built on Pope Sixtus V’s orders. Towards the end of the century, the Pope had an Egyptian obelisk placed in front of the facade.

At the beginning of the 16th century, in the location where we can now find the Spanish Steps, there were still just cultivated land and two palaces. One, towards the fields, belonged to the Ferratini family, and later became the Palazzo del Collegio di Propaganda Fide, and the other, belonging to the Monaldeschi barons, was sold to the Spanish ambassadors.

The name of the square, as mentioned above, comes from Palazzo di Spagna—built in 1647 by Antonio del Grande—which houses the Embassy of Spain. King Filippo IV had in fact already paid for the whole building in 1620. The entirety of the surrounding area was considered Spanish territory.

The properties in the area were initially considered the estate of the surrounding monasteries, later going to the French and Spanish states. In a way, they highlighted the seclusion of the area. The states were at the time the two greatest powers in Europe, and they settled in the area firmly and in contrast to one another, as well as in contrast to the State of the Church. This is even more evident if one considers that, before the 1600s, the Spanish Square was known as Piazza di Francia (that is, French Square).

Having become a point of attraction for the biggest European powers, the square started to represent the city’s center of cultural and touristic life. For a long time, it was chosen as a destination by artists, poets, and distinguished public figures.

At the center of the square, we can find one of its notable works of art, the Barcaccia. It is one of the most beautiful fountains of Rome, so-called because of its shape of a half-sunken ship (barca means ship in Italian). It lays on an oval-shaped basin, slightly under street level. It was built between 1626 and 1629 by Pietro Bernini, father to the more famous Gian Lorenzo, and commissioned by Urbano VIII Barberini.

However, the most notable architectural element of the square was inaugurated by Pope Benedict XII in 1725, on the occasion of the jubilee. Its function was that of linking the Spanish Embassy and the Trinità dei Monti church. It was the famous Spanish Steps, built by Francesco de Sanctis.

Contemporary Age (1789 - present)

Another work of art, known as the Column of the Immaculate Conception (Colonna dell’Immacolata Concezione), was commissioned by Pio IX in 1857, in honor of the dogma of the immaculate conception, established three years prior. The piece is from the architect Luigi Poletti, who designed a complex monument, as we will see in the next section, The Piazza’s Buildings and Monuments.

On the right-hand corner of the Steps, we can also visit another important site: the Keats–Shelley Memorial House. It was here that the poet Keats lived and died in 1821, as well as Percy Bysshe Shelley. Inside, the atmosphere is that typical of the ‘800, adorned by books and antique furniture.

Another prominent building in the square, inaugurated fairly recently, is the Giorgio de Chirico House Museum, by Palazzetto del Borgognoni. The house, which originally dates to the 16th century, was bought by the painter de Chirico in 1948. He transformed it into his family house and studio. The museum was opened in 1998, with the approval of the painter’s widow, who wished to preserve his artistic heritage.

Piazza di Spagna currently represents the Roman Baroque, it is the most well-known meeting point in the city, but also one of the most elegant, artistic, and fashionable areas of the capital. The square gained fame as a spot for luxury shopping, but also thanks to Cinema, as we will later discuss in the Curiosities section.

The Piazza’s buildings and monuments

As mentioned before, this place is full of magnificent buildings, monuments, and artwork from different times in the history of Rome. Some of the most relevant are referenced in the historical section of this article and will be now discussed more in-depth.

The Spanish Steps

The world-famous Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, in Italian) that look down on the square are made up of 137 individual steps in travertine and decorated with commemorative stones. They were built between 1723 and 1726 by the Roman architect Francesco De Sanctis, as a scenographic junction for the slope of Pincio Hill.

The idea of connecting the two parts of this drop with steps dates back to 1559, but it was only in 1660 that the first projects were drawn up. What came up then was the controversy about the ownership of the land, between the Church and the French State. This is one of the reasons why works on the project did not start until later on.

In 1717 Pope Clement XI launched a contest for the project, to which the major architects of the time all participated, including De Sanctis. Due to the aforementioned controversy, it was only possible to start working on the Steps under Pope Innocent XIII. To this day, his heraldic symbols—the eagles of the Conti Noble House—are visible at the foot of the steps, alternating with the French lily. The work was finished under Benedict XIII, with a cost of over 50,000 scudi.

Decorated with garden terraces, the Steps alternates ramps and balconies. These elements part and reunite throughout the length of the steps, creating movement and a lively, varied scenery. This way, the construction is free from the usual regular structure of a series of steps, instead of integrating graciously with the surrounding space.

The sumptuous, noble structure was built with the intent of seeming more and more evocative as one got closer to it.

This was in fact a feature of Baroque-style architecture, where long and deep perspectives were preferred, perhaps ending with a monumental backdrop.

In 1728, due to the heavy rainfall that hit Rome, only two years after the end of the works, the Steps saw the collapse of the wall on the left-hand flank. Filippo Juvarra took care of the restoration work in 1731.

Since then, it has been used as a backdrop or set for films, events, and shows, becoming one of the most famous roman corners.

Since 1951, every year in April, there has been a floral exhibit taking place on the 137 steps. During the Christmas Holidays, it is possible to see the Presepe Pinelliano, a papier-mache nativity scene.

Trinità dei Monti Church

The Trinità dei Monti Church, overlooking the square with its two bell towers, was consecrated in 1594. Just like the adjacent convent, it owes its origin to Saint Francis of Paola. In 1494, Charles VIII, son of the King of France Luis XI, wanted to express his gratitude towards San Francis for the spiritual guidance he had offered to his father. Charles thus ordered the construction of the church on the Pincio Hill, with the intent of welcoming the French religious order of the Minims, founded by Francis of Paola.

The construction lasted for the entirety of the 16th century, and was then on considered the “Roman church of the French Kings”. It was initially designed in gothic style, with stones from the Narbonne region. It had only one nave, bordered by six chapels. Two transept chapels were added. It is believed that the two architects were Annibale Lippi and Gregorio Caronica.

Around 1774, the ancient main vault of the nave was modified, with a project by Giuseppe Pannini. The gothic structures were changed and the harmony in the ratio between the ogival cruise and the side chapels did too. A tall wrought iron gate was positioned in correspondence of the ogival cruise. It was supposed to preserve the traditional monastic life.

Trinità dei Monti Obelisk

In 1788 Pope Pius VI had the architect Antinori put up the Sallustiano Obelisk, the penultimate among the great obelisks placed in Rome. These were obelisks built at the time of the Roman Empire, in clear imitation of the Egyptian obelisks.

This one was built by Augustus and originally placed in the Circo Massimo, then transferred to Trinità dei Monti in 1789. The monument came from the Horti Sallustiani and might have been placed on the spina of the horse track. The original granite foundation was discovered in 1912 between Via Sicilia and Via Sardegna, and can now be found in the Campidoglio.

The Palace of Spain

As mentioned before, the square owes its name to the presence of the Spanish Embassy for the State of the Church. The building dates to 1647 and it is located on the south side of the square. The northern part, towards Via del Babuino, was originally called Piazza di Francia, due to the French ownership of the land and the church.

Spanish diplomats decided to renovate the palace in 1653 and employed Antonio del Grande to do so. He most likely used Borromini’s plans—the artist had been asked to collaborate on the project but couldn’t personally take part in the construction due to other commitments.

The facade was then embellished with two wooden balconies that grouped together five windows on the left and three on the right. However, the biggest changes happened inside. The new great hall now had archways held up by double columns, the great stairway was decorated with a banister with pillars, and the courtyard with an open gallery ornate with large windows and columns representing the Spanish Kings’ coat of arms.

Between 1685 and 1693 many changes were made to the facade, while the 1700s saw various decorations being made in the interior, as well as the construction of a private theatre.

After the short-lived French domination of Rome, which implied an occupation of the building by Napoleon’s army, there was a radical renovation of the facade, thanks to the Spanish architect Antonio Celles. He got rid of the balconies and the windows on the penultimate floor and substituted all the others.

Another alteration took place in 1857, following the Column’s blessing. For this ceremony, the facade was covered with a wooden structure that had a stage built in correspondence with the principal floor, from which the Pope could give his blessing. After the ceremony, the structure was taken down but two balconies for the side windows were built.

Another important change happened in 1898, with the decoration of the entrance stairway. Here, a marvelous fresco was placed, representing the “Delivery of the Keys of Granada”, by F. Ballester.

The last alteration was in 1932 when a central balcony connecting three windows on the main floor was built. The facade presents three arched doorways, connected by one rustic ashlar. Above these is the balcony. In total there are three floors, the main one having three loggias.

Column of the Immaculate Conception

Next to the square, there is a monument dedicated to the dogma of the Immaculate Virgin. It was established by Pope Pius IX in 1854, three years prior. The bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, by Giuseppe Obici, is located on the top of a cipollini marble column, almost 12 meters high, which rests on a base decorated by bas-reliefs.

It was found during the excavations of Campo Marzio, in 1778. The base is decorated by four statues in bronze, representing Moses, David, and the prophets Isaia and Ezekiel. The total height of the monument is 29 meters.

To put it up, on the 25th of December 1856, a fire brigade team had to intervene. 240 bishops and other prelates attended the ceremony. The Pope arrived on a chariot, followed by almost the entire Sacred College of Cardinals and the Apostolic Curia.

To this day, every year on the 8th of December, a team of firefighters, in the presence of the Pope, the Municipality, and State authorities, climb the height of the column on a ladder to place a flower crown on the highest point of the statue.

The Propaganda Fide Palace

The Palazzo di Propaganda Fide (Palace of the Propagation of the Faith), is a property under the jurisdiction of the Holy See. It hosted the Pontifical Urban College, an institution whose purpose was the education of Catholic missionaries and the management of their work around the world. From the start, it also served as headquarters for the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, and to this, it owes its name.

The structure was commissioned by Pope Urban VII to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but it ended up being completed by Francesco Borromini, as requested by Pope Innocent X. In 1644, Bernini designed the facade overlooking the Spanish Square, highlighting the Pope’s coat of arms. The sculptor also added a chapel for Pope Urban VIII.

Some years later, Bernini completed the right-hand facade. In what was going to be his last project, the artist kept his characteristic style, with non-architectural curves, capitals, and such elements.

Inside the Palace, the pontiff ordered the construction of the Chapel of the Three Wise Men. However, Borromini destroyed it completely in order to rebuild it between 1662 and 1664. Cardinal Bernini was the one to request the subject to be the Wise Men. They symbolized the first pagans converted to Christianity, and thus a sign of recognition of the spiritual values promoted by the congregation.

The Palace, which then housed the ethnographic-missionary collection of the Borgia Museum (currently kept in the Vatican), can now be visited upon agreement. It now hosts a museum where several unpublished works are held. Among these, are the extraordinary paintings: Diluvio Universale (Great Flood) by Salvator Rosa, Romolo e Remo (Romulus and Remus) by Marco Tullio Montagna, Annunciazione (Annunciation) believed to have been made by Denijs Calvaert, and Pentecoste (Pentecost) by Corrado Giaquinto.

The Keats - Shelley House

To the sides of the church, there are two elegant buildings. On the right is the one called Casina Rossa (Little Red House), which belonged to a lady named Anna Angeletti, who used to rent rooms to tourists visiting Rome.

In 1820, English poet John Keats stayed here, in the house at the foot of the steps, with his friend and painter Joseph Servern. Keats, suffering from phthisis, was sent to Rome in the hopes that the climate would help his health recover. However, he died just a year after, depressed by the strong critiques of his writings and saddened by unrequited love.

After his death, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote his poem Adonais, and the following year died in a shipwreck in the Gulf of La Spezia. The artists are buried in the Protestant Cemetery of Rome. In 1906 the House was bought by an Anglo-American association. Today, it houses the museum, the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, inaugurated in 1909 in the presence of King Vittorio Emanuele III.

The museum also has a library, dedicated to the most renowned English Romantic poets. It holds about 8,000 books, as well as memorabilia and pictures which previously belonged to famous poets, like Byron. Keats’ room and place of comfort, facing the fountain, is nowadays almost a place of worship. The original furniture was however burned under the order of the Pope, and today we only have a few remains left.

Giorgio de Chirico House Museum

“They say that Rome is at the center of the world and that Piazza di Spagna is in the center of Rome, therefore, my wife and I would indeed be living in the center of the center of the world, which would be the apex of centrality and the apogee of anti-eccentricity”.

This eloquent and passionate statement was made by Giorgio de Chirico in his Memoirs, in 1945.

The artist arrived in Rome in 1944, after much traveling through European cities and a prolonged stay in New York. De Chirico finally settled in Rome in his Piazza di Spagna house in 1948, at the age of sixty. He spent the last thirty years of his life here, together with his second wife Isabella Pakszwer. She stayed here until 1990, the year of her death.

The flat is composed of the living quarters, the study, and a large balcony on the last of the three top floors belonging to the Palazzetto dei Borgognoni.

Thanks to Isabella’s will, the House Museum is today accessible to the public. Its inauguration was on the 20th of November 1998, on the twenty-year anniversary of the artist’s death. It offers a unique opportunity to admire de Chirico’s private and everyday world, as well as giving the visitors access to his artistic imagination, in a striking encounter between life and art.

The sumptuous rooms on the main floor show us the grandeur of 1600s-style halls with a great number of works. Some of these are framed in gold, red damask curtains, silver, wooden angels, marble coffee tables, and Louis XVI-style armchairs. This is the most vital part of the house, used for the reception of guests. The works here exposed by the Foundation aim to show the visitors the subjects and themes preferred by the artist.

Going up the stairs, visitors can see the more private and intimate rooms of the house, the bedroom, and the study. Surely, the latter is the most evocative space in the house. The easel and other craft objects are arranged in such a manner that suggests they might be used again any time now. Various plaster models representing ancient statues, gladiators, and horses are scattered throughout the artist’s personal library, also full of precious monographs.

A large terrace (limited access for the public) makes up the top floor of the house. Here de Chirico loved to ponder over the beauty of Rome and nature.

The Barcaccia Fountain

At the foot of the Spanish Steps, in the middle of the Spanish Square, we find the Barcaccia (the Bad Ship, in Italian), one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome. It is so-called because of its portrayal of a half-sunken ship, resting inside an oval basin, slightly under street level. The bow and stern are identical and much higher compared to the sides, which are just above the basin level.

In the middle of the ship, a short baluster holds up another smaller basin, which stands shorter than the bow and stern edges. Water flows from this basin and into the ship itself. Here, the water flows over the flared side edges of the ship, into the bigger basin, under the ship.

Water also flows from another six spots—three at the bow and three at the stern. Two of them are sun-shaped human faces, and the other four face outside the boat, resembling cannons. Apart from the suns, the other decorations are two pontifical coats of arms at the two external extremities of the ship. These decorations between the two cannons, display the crown and the bees, symbols of the Barberini family (the Pope at the time).

The Fountain was commissioned by Urbano VIII Barberini and built between 1626 and 1629 by Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gian Lorenzo. The Pope’s intention was that of completing an old project from 1570, that would have seen the construction of a fountain in each of the major squares of the city, after the restoration of the Acqua Vergine aqueduct.

To this day, it’s still possible to drink from this historical fountain, even if the monument saw several restorations throughout the centuries, often due to vandalism.

The first restoration started in 1993 and lasted until 1999. In 2007, a group of drunk tourists damaged the papal coat of arms with a screwdriver. In 2015, the Fountain was damaged by a group of Dutch football fans, visiting Rome to support their team, Feyenoord, in a Europa League match against A.S. Roma. The group damaged greatly the monument, stepping into the fountain and throwing bottles, trash, and smoke bombs. This led to a massive restoration in 2015.

The Villa Medici

Located in the Viale della Trinità dei Monti, in the Campo Marzio district, the land and the existing buildings were acquired by cardinal Ricci’s family from Montepulciano. The project for the construction was assigned to Annibale Lippi in 1544. The villa then went to the Medici family—where it takes its name—from them to the grand dukes of Tuscany and finally to the French State.

In 1803 Napoleon transferred here to the French Academy, originally located in the Salviati Palace. The academy was founded by Louis XIV in 1666 to allow young French painters to study in Rome. The institution still stands today.

In front of the Villa Medici, we can find the Vasca del Pincio (Pincio Hill basin): a simple fountain, with a huge basin and a cannonball in the middle. This has given the fountain the alternative name of Fountain of the Ball. This monument was also made by Annibale Lippi.

Curiosities about the Spanish Square

As mentioned in other articles about this city, Roman love for satire is centuries old and well documented. But did you know that this, combined with the funny appearance of a statue, led to a nearby street having its name changed? In this curiosities section, you will find out which statue we are referring to, together with several other interesting facts.

Babington’s: the English-style Tea Room

In 1893, two English ladies, Isabel Cargill and Anna Maria Babington decided to open a tea room where the waiters would serve tea and food wearing traditional English clothing.

The shop was named Babington’s, and it soon became a meeting point for the Anglo-Saxons in the capital, as well as many Roman intellectuals. Initially, the tea shop opened in a nearby street, but following its success, it was relocated to Piazza di Spagna 23, right next to the Steps.

After surviving the bombings of World War II and the arrival of fast food, Babington’s is still a tourist attraction and institution among political and artistic figures.

Among its famous clients, the tearoom has hosted Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, and many more. Near the entrance, there is a plaque that reads part of Cesare Pavese’s poem Passerò da Piazza di Spagna (I’ll Pass by the Spanish Square).

The Barcaccia Legend

According to popular belief, Bernini was inspired to build the fountain by an event that happened during the Christmas period of 1598. At this time, Rome was hit by an incredibly strong flood. It seems that, when the overflowing water from the Tiber river receded, a fishing boat was deposited in the center of the square, and couldn’t be moved for a time.

Thirty years later, the artist modeled his sculpture after this event. This would have led him to shape the boat with a flat bottom, like those typically used in river barges to transport goods along the Tiber.

It is said that in reality, Pietro Bernini was struggling to solve the problem of the low water pressure from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct. After observing a semi-sunken boat in the river, he decided to sculpt a fountain representing a similar subject, thus solving the problem of the low water pressure in that area of the city.

Via Condotti and Fashion

This is a well-known street that goes from Spanish Square to Largo Goldoni, still in the Campo Marzio district. The name derives from the ducts (condotte in Italian) that led water to the Agrippa Baths, near the Pantheon.

As already mentioned, the area surrounding Piazza di Spagna is one the most glamorous and elegant in Rome, and it hosts high fashion shops. Among some of the most famous Italian luxury brands that have a shop here, we can find Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci, Beltrami, as well as many more non-Italian brands.

In Via Borgognona, parallel to Condotti, one can find ateliers from other brands, such as Fendi, Ferrè, Versace. Valentino stores are located in Via Bocca di Leone and Via Mario de Fiori, while Armani has his emporium in Via del Babuino, a street renowned for its art galleries, antique stores, and exclusive furniture shops.

One can certainly say that fashion contributed to the Piazza and surrounding areas’ reputation. In fact, it is said that it was Bulgari to finance the restoration works in 2015, after the vandalic acts that affected various monuments in the square, as exposed in the former section of this article.

The Spanish Square and Cinema

Another form of art that contributed to making the Spanish Square internationally recognized and famous, was Cinema. Many directors chose the location as a film set for their works, featuring many famous Hollywood stars.

Among these was Roman Holiday (1953), in which the actors Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn meet by the Square.

The film, directed by William Wyler, tells the story of Princess Ann (Hepburn). She is a member of a non-specified royal family, traveling from one capital to the other for diplomatic reasons. With the help of a journalist (Peck), she decides to escape her embassy and discover Rome. The film is considered to be the one that made Hepburn famous.

Another notable film that used the Piazza as its main stage is the 1999 Anthony Minghella’s psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley, with Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow as protagonists.

The Column, the Pasquinata, and the Baboon

As mentioned previously in this article, the Column of the Immaculate Conception lays on a base where four sculptures have been put. One of these represents Moses.

It seems that the sculpture of the prophet was given a mouth too small for its stature. The poor execution inevitably led to a pasquinata (from Pasquino, the most famous among the talking statues of Rome).

With the name pasquinate we indicate the satirical gestures by the Roman public, aimed at criticizing the powers that be and their corruption. In order to do so, papers with anonymous rhymes making fun of well-known public figures were hung on the statues’ necks at night, to be found in the morning.

In this case, the statue is asked to speak, if possible. Because of its small mouth, the statue replies “No, I can’t”. Then the statue is asked to whistle, to which it replies “yes I’ll whistle, but against the sculptor that made me”.

In the street that links Piazza del Popolo with Piazza di Spagna, also part of the street complex known as Trident, we can find the Silenus Statue. This is a mythological character, half man and half goat, here depicted in the center of a minor fountain. With time, this statue too came to be known as one of the talking statues giving voice to the public’s complaints.

Its appearance was so peculiar that the public compared it to a monkey, specifically a baboon. It was in its name that the street where it resides changed its name from Via Paolina to Via del Babuino (Baboon street).

The Azaleas Exhibit

Every year since 1951, in the month of April, an azaleas exhibit takes place on the 137 steps of the Square. No Roman spring is complete without this colorful exhibition on the Spanish Steps. The flower show has been happening for almost a century and every year it is a delight for tourists. At this time, visitors can enjoy the already beautiful Steps, built by Francesco De Sanctis, in an even more fascinating context.

Normally these plants are kept in the San Sisto plant nursery, where the municipality’s gardeners take care of these plants, belonging to the Rhododendron Indicum species, a type of azalea not available on the market, and particularly apt to the Roman climate.

This spectacle features about 250 plants, traditionally white and lilac. The white ones are generally already in full bloom, while the lilac ones—located at the bottom of the Steps—will start blooming soon after. This is one of the most scenic and appreciated urban views in Rome.

The French Mass

In the previous section, the relationship between the Trinità dei Monti Church and the State of France was discussed. There is, however, a detail worth mentioning that ties the aforementioned church to this country.

It has to do with the fact that mass is celebrated in French, but that is not all. The church has in fact two bell towers with two clocks, representing the two capitals, Rome and Paris.

Antico Caffè Greco

It is one of the most elegant cafés of the city, founded in 1760. It is the second oldest cafè still open to date.

It can be found in Via Condotti and it has always been a meeting place for intellectuals and artists. The main hall, called Omnibus, still has many artifacts and works linked to these figures.

Among them, we can name María Zambrano, the Spanish philosopher, who was a recurring customer of the cafè.

How to get to Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna is one of the most beloved tourist sites, and as such, it is not hard to reach, both with public and private transportation, as well as on foot.

By metro

Piazza di Spagna has its own metro stop, indeed called “Spagna”, on line A. The stop has two entrances/exits, one at the top, and one at the foot of the Steps.

The cost of a single ticket (BIT) is €1.50, but the metro also offers 24h, 48h, 72h, or weekly tickets.

More info about the metro in Rome.

See details on tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By tram

As the Spanish Square is located in a central and commercial area of the city, there are no tram stops near enough to justify choosing this transportation method.

Find more info about the trams in Rome.

See details about tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By bus

This is the transportation method that usually offers more options, even though the speed of the bus service is slowed down by the heavy traffic in the downtown areas.

Line 119 is for sure the most convenient, as it can drop you off either at the top or the foot of the steps. The other lines detailed underneath will drop you off in the vicinity of the Square, a short walk away from the Piazza.

Fermata piu vicina*
Fermata piu vicina*Spagna or Trinità dei MontiMercedeTomacelli or Augusto Imperatore/Ara PacisLgt Marzio/Porto Di Ripetta or Augusto Imperatore/Ara Pacis
ItinerarioAn almost circular route, departing from Piazza Venezia, going around Piazza del Popolo and then returning to the initial stop.It covers a small distance in the city center, departing and returning to the same stop at Porta Pinciana.It connects an area in the north of Rome with the city center, ending its journey at the Tiburtina train station.It connects two areas respectively to the north and south of Rome, passing by the city center and following the course of the river for a time.

The city buses use the same tickets that are also valid for the metro, trams, and suburban trains. The cost of a single bus ticket is therefore always €1.50 (BIT) and is valid for all other means of public transportation.

Find more info about buses in Rome.

See details about tickets and subscriptions for public transportation in Rome.

By taxi

Cabs are obviously the most comfortable option, but they are also the most expensive and, depending on where you are starting your journey, are not guaranteed to be the fastest way to get to Piazza di Spagna, due to the heavy traffic in the central area of Rome.

However, this means of transport is a good option if you feel like chatting with a cab driver, who can tell you a few secrets of the city or entertain you with his typical Roman humor.

The best way to get a cab in Rome is to book it by phone, mobile apps, or simply by going to a cab stand.

See detailed information on taxis in Rome.

On foot

Surely the most recommended option to make the most of the monumental beauty of Rome. Luckily, Piazza di Spagna is in the vicinity of many other interesting spots to visit.

You could, for example, choose to start from the bottom of the Steps to admire them and what surrounds them in their entirety, and then climb them in order to visit the Trinità dei Monti church at the top. Then, you could continue to the left, and arrive at the Terrazza del Pincio (Pincio Hill Terrace). From here, you will be able to enjoy a magnificent panoramic view over the Eternal City.

Afterward, you could go down towards Piazza del Popolo, and even continue towards and along the Tiber river, or alternatively, go back to the area near the Piazza to visit some luxury brand shops.

Useful tips for your visit

  • We would like to remind you that the Museum visits imply a ticket purchase, while the visit to the Trinità dei Monti church is free.
  • Since 2019 it is not allowed to sit on the steps of the Spanish Square. This decision, made by the government, aims at allowing the visitors to enjoy the view of the Spanish Steps in its entirety.
  • Normally, it is also forbidden to consume food or alcohol on the Spanish Steps.
  • If you choose to visit the Piazza in a warm season, it is recommendable to do so in the spring, as you would be able to see the beautiful flower exhibit.

Nearby places of interest

In the historical center of the city, Piazza di Spagna is not far from many other architectural monuments and tourist sites. In this list, you will find some of those within walking distance.

Piazza del Popolo

It is one of the most famous squares in Rome. It is located near Via Flaminia and, at the time of the Roman Empire, it used to be the main entrance to the city.

Since the late 1600s, it also features two beautiful twin churches, one next to the other and almost identical. They are Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

It’s 700 m from Piazza di Spagna (8-minute walk).

Piazza Navona

This is one of the most famous monumental squares in Rome. Emperor Domitian had a large stadium built on this spot for athletic competitions, which had room for 30,000 people.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Romans built houses on the former tribunes. The athletics track itself remained unbuilt and evolved into a large square over the centuries. In the 17th century, Pope Innocent X gave it its current shape.

Piazza Navona is 1,2 km from Piazza di Spagna (15-minute walk).

Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia with the Altare della Patria is among the iconic sights of Rome. It’s located at the foot of Campidoglio hill, where five of the city’s main streets intersect. It’s named after the nearby Palazzo Venezia, which was used as the embassy of the Venetian Republic in Rome.

A few sights in this square include Palazzo Bonaparte, the Monument to Victor Emanuel II, Palazzo Venezia, Basilica San Marco, and the bust of Madame Lucrezia.

Piazza Venezia is 1,4 km to the south of Piazza di Spagna (an 18-minute walk).

Imperial Fora

The Fori Imperiali consists of a series of monumental fora (public squares). They were built over a total period of 150 years, between 46 BC and 113 AD. Over the years, Caesar, Vespasian, Augustus, Nerva, and Trajan contributed to its development.

The Imperial Fora were built to replace the Roman Forum after it became too small due to strong population growth and could no longer fulfill its purpose as the center of Rome.

The entrance to the Imperial Fora is 1,7 km from Piazza di Spagna (a 20-minute walk).

Palazzo Castellesi

Castellesi Palace, also known by the name Torlonia, is an important renaissance building, in the Borgo district, near Saint Peter’s Basilica. From the time of its construction until today, it has had many different roles, among which are the British Embassy, ecclesiastical college, hospice, and private residence.

It’s 280 m from Piazza di Spagna (3-minute walk).

Saints Ambrogio and Carlo al Corso Basilica

It is a minor basilica in Rome, known as the “national” church for the Lombardi (people from the region of Lombardy) in Rome. Its construction began in 1612, substituting an X-century building. Its bright interior is a great example of late-Baroque Roman style, and it holds two of the biggest statues of Rome, those of the two Saints after which it takes its name.

It’s located 450 m from the Square (a 6-minute walk).