Spanish Steps History and Information
Visiting the Spanish Steps at Night – iconic spot in Rome!
Whether you visit the Spanish Steps at night or during the day, you must visit this wonderful spot in Rome. See and be seen in this lovely area where the locals gather to catch up.
The marble steps have been the place to see and be seen since the very beginning. Artists, painters, and poets have gathered here along with those who hoped to serve as models and muses.
The most famous poet of this spot is John Keats, who arrived in Rome in 1782, hoping the warm climate would cure him of his tuberculosis. You can see the house where he died in 1821, now called the Keats Shelley House, at the foot of the steps on the right hand side. It is now a museum and library for Romantic Literature and Romantic Poets.
Do you recognize any of these John Keats quotes?
Refresh your memory of the poetry of John Keats and consider adding a few lines to the next card or text you send the love of your life.
“You are always new, the last of your kisses was ever the sweetest.”
“Beauty is truth and truth is beauty.”
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.”
“Two souls but with a single heart, Two hearts that beat as one”
Spanish Steps – Taste of Britain
Keats isn’t the only thing from Britain here in Italy at the Spanish Steps. Once upon a time, way back, tea was only for sale at a pharmacy and in 1893 when Babingtons opened this was the one spot in town to buy it. You can still get spot of English tea at the foot of the Spanish Steps on the left hand side.
Spanish Steps and the Golden Arches
The very first McDonald’s in Italy was opened right here in 1986 and was, at the time, the largest McDonald’s in the world with seating for 450 people. The locals did not take kindly to the fast food giant arriving in Rome at the base of the iconic Spanish Steps. Upon opening day for this McDonald’s there were protests claiming that basically American hamburgers would bring doom to the great Enternal City of Rome.
The good news is that Rome still stand inspite of hamburgers, Italian food is still loved the world over, and visits to the restroom at McDonald’s are FREE!
The feelings of Italians are so strong in negative response to this fast food icon’s appearance in Rome that from this angst was born – The Slow Food Movement.
Slow Food Movement founder, Tolco Portinari, says
“we are enslaved by speed and have succumbed to the same insidious virus <fast living>'”
No matter how you feel about eating locally or the speed of your food being prepared be sure to point out this McDonald’s to the kids. Better yet, stop inside to see how the menu is different and how fancy the place is! We have one child who adores McDonald’s french fries so we often pop in to grab some no matter where we are.
A McDonald’s is a great conversation starter with kids, “What do we all have in common?”
A conversation starter with adults, “Should McDonald’s be here in this iconic spot?” “Is this progress or is it ruining the history of this area?”
Spanish Steps – No picnics
For all the fuss about food related to the Spanish Steps like the slow food movement vs McDonald’s it might surprise you to hear there is a food rule.
NO eating on the Spanish Steps.
Spanish Steps – Refurbishment
In 2016 the Spanish Steps were completely refurbished and scrubbed back to their original glory. The refurbishment of the Spanish Steps was paid for by the jewelry company, Bulgari, and included a cleaning and improvement in things like water drainage system and video security. Sadly, Paolo Bulgari, head of the jewelry company that did the cleaning wants to add fences at the top and bottom of the steps to close them off at night to….get this….to protect them from the ‘barbarian tourists’.
Ok – 2 things….. 1) not ALL tourists are barbarians!!! and 2) not ALL Romans are perfect either!
At the moment the area is patrolled by security from 7 am until midnight. I suspect that adding overnight security might help a lot, too. What do you think? How best to protect this wonderful area while letting everyone enjoy the historical iconic sight?
Spanish Steps – Bernini
I’m a huge Bernini fan and the Bernini had a lot of artists – generations of artists. The most famous Bernini family artist is Gian Lorenzo Bernini and you can admire his statues in spots all over Rome including my personal favorite, The Galleria Borghese museum. The fountain at the bottom of the Spanish Steps is by Gian’s father, Pietro Bernini. The Statue “Fountain of the Old Boat” or “Fountain of the Ugly Boat” depending upon which translation you choose. I’m pretty sure I can guess which one the Bernini family would choose!!
Legend has it that once upon a time the Tiber river, here in Rome, overflowed its banks so much that a fishing boat was carried to this very spot. So, when Pope Urban VIII decided to spruce up every single square in Rome by adding a fountain, Bernini chose this legend as inspiration for the topic of his statue.
Poet John Keats found hear the water from the fountain while lying on his deathbed and thus chose his epitaph.
“Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”
SIDEBAR – You can see John Keats epitaph in person at Rome’s Protestant cemetery where he is buried.
Savor all that Rome has to offer!
Natalie, The Educational Tourist