Spanish Steps

Steps with irregular butterfly-shaped design, built in 18th century at French diplomat’s bequest. The Spanish Steps (Italian: Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti) in Rome, Italy, climb a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church, at the top.

The monumental stairway of 135 steps was built with French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s bequeathed funds of 20,000 scudi, in 1723–1725,[ linking the Trinità dei Monti church under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, at the top of the steps, and the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See in the Palazzo Monaldeschi at the bottom of the steps. The stairway was designed by the architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi.


The site before the construction of the stairs in a late 17th century engraving by Giovanni Battista Falda. The piazza di Spagna in an 18th-century etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, seen from south. The street on the left is Via del Babuino, leading to Piazza del Popolo.

Generations of heated-debate over how the steep, 29-meter slope to the church on a shoulder of the Pincio should be urbanized preceded the final execution. Archival drawings from the 1580s show that Pope Gregory XIII was interested in constructing a stair to the recently completed façade of the French church.

French diplomat to the Holy See Étienne Gueffier died in 1660, leaving part of his fortune for the construction of the stairs. The Roman-educated Cardinal Mazarin took a personal interest in the project and entrusted it to his agent in Rome- whose plan included an equestrian monument of Louis XIV of France- an ambitious intrusion that created a furore in papal Rome. Mazarin died in 1661, the pope in 1667, while Gueffier’s will was successfully contested by a nephew who claimed half; so the project lay dormant until Pope Clement XI Albani renewed interest in it in the early 18th century.

A competition was held in 1717, which was won by Francesco de Sanctis, though Alessandro Specchi was long thought to have produced the winning entry. Little is known of the architect, who was favored by the French in the design process. His drawing was engraved by Girolamo Rossi in 1726, with a long dedication to Louis XV.

The solution is a gigantic inflation of some conventions of terraced garden stairs. The first such divided and symmetrical stairs were devised for the Belvedere Courtyard in the 1600s by Donato Bramante, while shaped and angled steps were introduced by Michelangelo in the vestibule to the Laurentian Library. The Bourbon fleur-de-lys and Innocent XIII’s eagle and crown are carefully balanced in the sculptural details.

Mid-18th century writers Joseph de Lalande[3] and Charles de Brosses noted that the steps were already in poor condition. They have been restored several times since, including from May to December 1995.

Sponsored by the Italian luxury brand Bulgari (which has its Italian flagship store in the nearby Via dei Condotti) a new renovation commenced on 8 October 2015, with the steps being reopened to the public on 21 September 2016.[6] The restoration of the almost 32,300 square feet (3,000 m2) of travertine stone, as well as brick, marble and plaster employed more than 80 people and cost €1.5 million.

Over the years several city administrations have tried to dissuade visitors from getting too comfortable on the steps, banning loitering and eating, but the ordinances have not been enforced. However, in July 2019 the administration of Mayor Virginia Raggi, as part of an attempt to get ill-mannered tourists to behave themselves in Rome, introduced more stringent ordinances designed to “guarantee decorum, security and legality”.[8] These regulations allow for fines of €250 for sitting down on the steps and up to €400 for dirtying or damaging the steps (including eating or pushing a pram up or down them

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