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The Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna are a popular attraction in Rome, most notably because the staircase is the widest and longest in all of Europe. The staircase was painstakingly designed to accommodate the steep incline of the hill between the Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita dei Monti, where the illustrious Church of Trinita dei Monti is located. The Piazza di Spagna is located at the base of the hill. The Spanish Steps are close to many hotels and restaurants and another fabulous attraction—the Villa and Galleria Borghese.
There was a competition in 1717 to determine who would win the rights of designing and constructing the staircase, and a man named Francesco de Sanctis won the proverbial contract. It was a very precious project to have won, as there is evidence that all the way back in the 1580s, Pope Gregory XIII showed interest in having a staircase constructed that would bridge the area between the Piazza di Spagna and the newly built French Church of Trinita dei Monti.
The Spanish Steps were not completed until the latter half of the seventeenth century when Pope Clement XI took a personal interest in renewing the now dormant construction project. There is a decidedly Bourbon style in the decorative sculptures and ornamentation along the staircase. There are 138 steps in all now that the project that long since been completed. Many tourists to Rome and many residents of the village gather around the stairs, (although it should be noted that it is illegal to picnic on the stairs). There are a number of popular and well-known attractions near the Spanish Steps, and a wide range of cafes, restaurants, and bars, where you can wind down after a day of sightseeing around the city with a drink, or wake up for a new day of exploration with a hot cup of coffee. Besides the variety of charming restaurants and cafes, there are also several attractions near the Spanish Steps that are also well worth seeing.
The Early Baroque fountain, Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Old Boat) that sits in the Piazza di Spagna is one of the most frequently visited and photographed of these sites. It is thought to have been built around 1630 by Pietro Bernini, father to the much more historically celebrated Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose works can be found all over Rome from the Vatican Museums to the Galleria Borghese.
Another of the favorite attractions near the Spanish Steps, especially for lovers of the English Romantic Period, is the one-time home of English poet John Keats. A museum is now dedicated to Keats where once he lived. It is an amazing experience to walk around areas like these in the city of Rome. One truly grasps the importance of the cultural development that in many ways took root in this area of the world, in Rome. As you walk around and ponder that artists like Keats were writing, sculptors like Bernini were flourishing, and the Renaissance itself was in full bloom, you cannot help but be enthralled by the idea that they walked through the same streets of Rome and were surrounded by many of the sites that still stand today.
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