If you are planning a trip to Rome, Italy, you must not overlook the iconic Spanish Square, one of the most coveted and featured monuments in Rome’s tours. This historic landmark, deeply rooted in the city’s history and heritage, offers a unique blend of art, culture, and picturesque beauty that leaves its visitors spellbound. In this article, we’ll delve into the heart of Spanish Square, its history, architectural features, nearby attractions, and practical visitor information.
An Overview of the Spanish Square
The Spanish Square, or Piazza di Spagna in Italian, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rome. It’s an exemplary symbol of Italian Baroque architecture, marked by the spectacular Spanish Steps, the elegant Fontana della Barcaccia, and the imposing Church of Trinità dei Monti. The square is a vibrant hub of activity, alive with locals, tourists, artists, and vendors, adding a dynamic energy to the backdrop of historic elegance.
The Unforgettable History of the Spanish Square
In the heart of Rome, the Spanish Square has stood since the 17th century. It gets its name from the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, located nearby. However, the area’s global appeal surged with the construction of the Spanish Steps, a project funded by French diplomat Etienne Gueffier’s bequest.
The square and its surroundings have inspired countless artists and writers, from John Keats to Federico Fellini, lending a sense of romantic allure and artistic influence to the site. This rich historical background and cultural significance have secured the Spanish Square’s position as an integral part of the Eternal City.
The Architectural Marvels of the Spanish Square
The 135-step monumental stairway, known as the Spanish Steps, is the highlight of the square. This sweeping staircase, designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi, boasts an irregular butterfly design that invites admiration from every angle. In May, the steps bloom with azaleas, further enhancing their majestic beauty. At the top, you’ll find the Church of Trinità dei Monti, another stunning piece of architecture to explore.
Fontana della Barcaccia
At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the beautifully crafted Fontana della Barcaccia, a Baroque-style fountain designed by Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The fountain, shaped like a sinking ship, adds a touch of intrigue and charm to the square.
Adjacent to the Spanish Steps, the Keats-Shelley House is a must-visit for literature lovers. This house, where the English poet John Keats spent his final days, is now a museum dedicated to the romantic poets.
Visiting the Spanish Square: Hours and Costs
The Spanish Square is an open public space accessible 24/7, free of charge. However, for specific attractions like the Keats-Shelley House, there are designated visiting hours and admission fees. The museum is open from Monday to Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm, and the standard entry fee is 6€.
Monuments Around the Spanish Square: A Cultural Feast
The area surrounding the Spanish Square is a treasure trove of remarkable monuments and landmarks that capture the essence of Rome’s rich history and culture. Just a stone’s throw away from the Spanish Square, you will find the magnificent Trinità dei Monti. Perched at the top of the Spanish Steps, this French church boasts a beautiful facade and offers panoramic views over the city.
Nearby, the Column of the Immaculate Conception stands tall. It is a monument erected in honor of the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception and features a statue of the Virgin Mary, made by Giuseppe Obici. The column itself, discovered in a Roman site, hails from the ancient times and is beautifully adorned with biblical figures at its base.
Another neighbor to the Spanish Square is the impressive Palazzo Barberini, which houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, one of the most important painting collections in Italy. The palace itself is a marvel of Baroque architecture, designed by some of the era’s most renowned architects, including Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
A few minutes’ walk will lead you to Via Condotti, a luxurious shopping street filled with high-end boutiques like Gucci, Prada, and Bulgari. It’s also home to the historical café Antico Caffè Greco, a meeting point for famous artists and writers over the centuries.
Lastly, don’t miss a visit to the Villa Medici, an impressive Renaissance palace that now hosts the French Academy in Rome. Its beautiful gardens offer a peaceful retreat from the bustling city life.
In the neighborhood around the Spanish Square, each monument and street corner resonates with tales from the past, adding layers of richness to your Roman experience.
Lights, Camera, Action: Spanish Square in the Silver Screen
The Spanish Square has not only charmed tourists and locals alike with its architectural beauty but has also captured the attention of filmmakers from around the globe. Its timeless charm and romantic allure have made it the perfect backdrop for several iconic movies.
One of the most renowned films to feature the Spanish Square is “Roman Holiday” (1953). In this classic, Audrey Hepburn, playing a princess, and Gregory Peck, a journalist, enjoy gelato on the Spanish Steps, one of cinema’s most cherished moments, forever linking the location with the magic of the silver screen.
In “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999), Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow are seen enjoying the splendors of Rome, with the Spanish Square featuring prominently in several scenes.
The Spanish Square and the Steps have also made appearances in Italian cinema, most notably in films directed by the celebrated Federico Fellini. “La Dolce Vita” (1960) and “The White Sheik” (1952) both feature scenes in the square, showcasing its inherent romanticism and appeal.
Recent years have not seen this trend decline. The Spanish Square continues to appear in films and TV productions, including the popular TV series “Master of None” (2015-present), where Aziz Ansari’s character is seen wandering around the square.
Through these portrayals, the Spanish Square has transcended beyond a physical location, becoming a symbol of Rome’s beauty and charm in global pop culture.
Gastronomic Delights: Famous Restaurants Near the Spanish Square
When visiting the Spanish Square, your journey doesn’t end with the historical and architectural sights. The area is also home to some of Rome’s best culinary experiences, showcasing the city’s gastronomic heritage.
Ristorante Il Gabriello is tucked away in a quiet side street, just a short walk from the Square. Renowned for its cozy atmosphere and diverse menu that marries traditional Roman cuisine with innovative touches, it’s a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. Open for lunch (12:30 PM – 2:45 PM) and dinner (7:00 PM – 11:00 PM), expect to spend around 50€ for a three-course meal. The pasta dishes, particularly the Cacio e Pepe, are highly recommended.
Another culinary gem is Dal Bolognese, overlooking the Piazza del Popolo, a few minutes walk from the Spanish Square. A Rome staple since the 1960s, it’s known for its excellent Emilia-Romagna dishes, including homemade tortellini and tagliatelle al ragu. Dal Bolognese is open for lunch (12:30 PM – 3:30 PM) and dinner (7:30 PM – 11:30 PM) from Wednesday to Monday, with average prices around 60€ for a full meal.
For a sweet treat, head to Antico Caffè Vitti, a historic café located in the vicinity of the Square. Known for its delicious pastries and robust coffee, it’s the perfect spot for a mid-day break or after-dinner dessert. Open daily from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, expect to spend around 15€ for a coffee and pastry. The cannoli and tiramisu are must-tries.
Lastly, for the wine enthusiasts, there’s Il Goccetto, a charming wine bar with a vast selection of Italian and international wines. It’s an excellent spot for a pre-dinner drink or a relaxed evening. Open from 6:30 PM to 12:30 AM, a glass of wine with cheese and cold cuts costs around 20€.
Each of these establishments brings something unique to the table, allowing you to taste and savor the richness of Italian cuisine while basking in the beauty of the Spanish Square.
In Conclusion: Experience the Magic of the Spanish Square
Whether you are a history buff, art enthusiast, or simply a traveler seeking beautiful sights, the Spanish Square is sure to enchant you. Its timeless allure lies in the harmonious blend of history, architecture, and the vibrant energy of Rome, making it a must-visit spot on any Rome itinerary. So the next time you find yourself in Rome, make sure to take a leisurely stroll through the Spanish Square and immerse yourself in the magic.