Visiting The Spanish Steps

A Practical Guide For Those Planning On Visiting Independently

The Spanish Steps Rome In May Decorated With Pink Azaleas

The Spanish Steps
In May each year decorated with pink azaleas

The Spanish Steps are a set of steps climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top dominated by Trinita dei Monti Church.

The steps are at the eastern end of the old city centre. From the base there is a maze of very narrow lanes crammed full with designer shops waiting to be explored.

Although a major draw for visitors there is no particular wow factor as such, a place to congregate and hang out for a while.

The stairway itself is of 138 steps, if you cannot manage this there is a lift, part of the Metro complex - but like the Metro station itself it is quite seedy.

In May each year the steps are decorated with pink azaleas.

In an attempt to keep the area clean, the authorities have banned visitors from eating whilst sitting on the steps.

The area immediately around the Spanish Steps is one of the most upmarket districts in Rome, the Via dei Condotti facing the Spanish Steps being where you find the top range designer and perfume shops. Behind the Spanish Steps at the top of the steps is an area where you find some of the finest and most expensive hotels in Rome.

What Is At The Spanish Steps?

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.

In the piazza at the bottom of the Spanish Steps is the 17th century Fountain of the Old Boat (Fontana della Barcaccia), spouting water as she sinks. This fountain, by Pietro Bernini, supposedly marks the place where a large barge came to rest when the River Tiber overflowed its banks.

To the left of the Steps, the classic Babington's Tea Room, founded in 1896, offers an elegant interior, a wide selection of teas and pastries, and waiters in traditional English attire.

At the foot of the Spanish Steps the area is of upmarket chic, with an endless supply of small boutique designer shops and a wide range of restaurants and bars.

The Via dei Condotti facing the Spanish Steps is where you want to go if you want to shop for Armani, Prada, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana or Gucci. This is not only one of the richest streets in Italy but also one of the best for shopping in Rome.

After you have spent your time at the Spanish Steps, the classic tourist option is to head west for the Trevi Fountain and perhaps after that the Pantheon. The way is sporadically signposted, but a good map is recommended. This walk is so full of interest that getting lost in the maze of narrow streets and alleys is almost a bonus.

The Spanish Steps

Fontana della Barcaccia At Foot Of Spanish Steps

View Of Piazza di Spagna From
Trinita dei Monti Church

Fontana della Barcaccia At Foot Of Spanish Steps

Fontana della Barcaccia

The Spanish Steps is a staircase constructed using 138 steps. Designed in 1723 by Francesco De Sanctis, and funded by a French diplomat Stefano Gueffierwas, the steps are a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas, and terraces. The steps have needed to be restored many times over the years, with the latest restoration being in 1995.

During the 18th century, the Spanish Steps became a meeting place for both artists, poets etc. Today one of the more famous residents, John Keats has a museum next to the Spanish Steps where the English poet John Keats lived and died.

Today, at the top of the Spanish Steps you will find a cluster of artists painting visitors portraits and are surprisingly busy most of the time.

Fontana della Barcaccia

At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the Fontana della Barcaccia, a natural draw for the throngs of tourists to be photographed against with the Spanish Steps itself as a backdrop.

In English the name translates to “Fountain of the Old Boat” and is so named because it is in the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows. The fountain was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII and was completed in 1627 by Pietro Bernini.

The story behind the ship is that the River Tiber often flooded before the city walls were built and in 1598 there was a particularly bad flooding and the Piazza di Spagna was flooded up to a meter. Once the water withdrew, a boat was left behind in the square.

Babington's Tea Rooms

On the opposite side of the Spanish Steps from John Keats museum are Babington's Tea Rooms that have been serving English tea for more than a century. The tea shop was set up, in 1893 by two English residents Isabel Cargill and Anna Maria Babington. This was a time when it was only possible to buy tea in pharmacy shops.

Babington's Tea Rooms are now a bit of an instituution and there are restaurant facilities as well. It's not the cheapest place in Rome to have a cup of tea, but its certainly an experience. Babington's also sell a range of condiments and other souvenir items related to tea as well as some of their own blended teas.

Via Dei Condotti – Rome’s High Class Fashion Street

Via Dei Condotti leads off into the ancient city centre from the foot of the Spanish Steps. Today, it is the street which contains the greatest number of Rome-based Italian fashion retailers and international luxury brands trophy stores in Rome.

Getting To The Spanish Steps

By Metro take Linea A (red line) and exit at Spagna. The station is right next to the Spanish Steps.

Rome city buses are too big to negotiate the narrow streets around the Spanish Steps, plenty of buses go to Barberini or Piazza del Popolo / Flaminio about a 10 minute walk away.

There are a myriad of Rome hop on, hop off bus operators, all of which will not stop at the Spanish Steps itself as the buses are too large, but will stop within a 10 minute walk.

A classic Rome walk is to start at the Spanish Steps and end at Piazza Navona visiting the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon on the way.

Free Self Guided Walks From/To Spanish Steps

There really is only one way of exploring the ancient city centre of Rome and that's to walk.

Not only is walking the most practical way of visiting all the sights in the ancient city centre its also by far the most rewarding way.

For those who want to explore at their own pace then we have a few free reference walks that connect some of the most famous sights visitors want to see on their visit to Rome. Pick-up a good guide book that can explain what you are seeing and you have the recipe for a great independent adventure.

Free Self Guided Walk - Spanish Steps To/From Trevi Fountain

Professional Guided Walk - Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps

If you prefer a professional guided walking tour rather than wandering at your own pace with a guide book then one is available.

Taking 3 hours and covering much of this walk plus the Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona via the Panthon self guided walk it starts slightly north if the Spanish Steps at Piazza del Popolo and finishes not at Piazza Navona but Campo de' Fiori.

You stroll through Rome's picturesque cobblestone alleyways and discover some of the world's most famous sites, including the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. You'll travel through time and admire Rome's must-see art and architecture, all in a single afternoon!

Because of the maze of narrow streets ad alleys its not possible to do anything like this tour using a vehicle. Walking is really the only way to explore the ancient centre of Rome.

Ancient Rome Walking Tour Including Spanish Steps Prices
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