With its irregular butterfly design, the beautiful “Scalinata di Spagna”, or Spanish Steps are just one of the most popular places in Rome.
The monumental stairway of 135 steps was built and designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi in 1723–1725 linking the Bourbon Spanish Embassy and the “Trinità dei Monti” church located above.
It’s a great place to just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere with a big “gelato” (ice cream)!!!
To the right side, there 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 center of the square, the main attraction is a boat-shaped fountain called the “barcaccia” realized by Bernini.
If you come to visit the squarest Springtime, just before the 21st of April the anniversary of the foundation of Rome, part of the steps are covered by pots azaleas, up until early May. In modern times the Spanish Steps have included a small cut-flower market.
DON’T FORGET Spanish steps means SHOPPING!
How to get there – METRO TRAIN
If you are taking the metro, get the orange line A to Spagna. When you come out of the metro stop, you will be standing right at the base of the Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna, with shops all around you, and streets branching out in front of you, and to the left and right as well.
SHOPPING NEAR SPANISH STEPS – THE MAIN STREETS
There are a few main streets for shopping near Spanish Steps, where the high-end brands are concentrated, but each has its own character. Let’s start with the poshest street of them all, via Condotti.
Via Condotti is the street that continues from the bottom of the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, or Spanish Steps. If you stand in the middle of via Condotti, you will have the Spanish Steps and the church at the top right in your center view.
Via Condotti may be compared to the most elegant shopping streets in other big cities, such as the Champs-Elysée in Paris, Bond Street in London or Fifth Avenue in New York. It is the most prestigious shopping street in Rome. This is where the top brands, called Griffes in Italian lingo, may be found: Hermès, Bulgari, Gucci, Prada, La Perla, Jimmy Choo and much more.
I will say that for me personally, it’s not my favorite street for shopping near Spanish Steps: it’s wide, paved and usually very crowded and doesn’t give me a sense of charming Rome. But it is really lovely at Christmastime, with the holiday lights and shops windows glowing, and all the elegantly dressed Italians strolling arm in arm, window shopping and generally doing their holiday thing.
VIA BORGOGNONA AND VIA DELLE CARROZZE
The two streets on either side of via Condotti, via Borgognona to the left if you are standing in the Piazza di Spagna, and via delle Carrozze to the right, are also full of very high-end brands, and often those brands better known in Italy than out, such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Bruno Cucinelli, Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Malo, and more.
These streets are much quieter than via Condotti, and are just as wide, so it’s really a pleasure to walk down them, even if you don’t want to buy anything here. You can do some of your window-shopping at your own pace and stand there with your mouth wide open when you see the prices of the clothes in the window (Yes, the jacket in the Bruno Cucinelli window really does cost over 2,000 Euros.)
Ah, one of my favorite streets near Spanish Steps. Via Frattina is to the left of via Borgognona if you are standing in Piazza di Spagna. This is a wonderful street for the mix of shops on it.
Some great places to stop on via Frattina, starting from the top (at piazza Mignanelli):
• The first bar/café on your right (and so far the only bar on this street), Bar Frattina, has very good coffee, and superb, and I do mean superb, rich, dark chocolate gelato. Oh! and the walnut gelato is fabulous also. It’s actually a little neighborhood bar, and often full of locals. Get your receipt (“scontrino”) first, and then go to the counter to order. Avoid sitting outside where you will pay a lot more for whatever you get.
• Andrea Fabiani – really cheap shoes! Some are even Made in Italy! They have a huge selection and really really low prices. It’s a bit chaotic in there at times, but can be worth it.