May 2017: Piazza di Spagna, at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
Outdoors, Cityscape, Horizontal, Icon, Rome - Italy, Roma, Italy, Capital Cities, Religious Icon, Piazza di Spagna, Photography

©Filippo Maria Bianchi/Getty Images

Piazza di Spagna & the Spanish Steps

Top choice in Tridente, Trevi & the Quirinale

Lonely Planet's Ultimate Guide

Explore insider tips, fascinating history and surprising secrets to make the most of your experience.

A magnet for visitors since the 18th century, the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) provide a perfect place for people watching. The 135 gleaming steps rise from Piazza di Spagna to the landmark Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti.

Piazza di Spagna was named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, although the staircase, designed by the Italian Francesco de Sanctis, was built in 1725 with money bequeathed by a French diplomat.

In the late 1700s the area around the piazza was much loved by English visitors on the Grand Tour and was known to locals as the ghetto de l’inglesi (the English ghetto).

At the top of the steps, the Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti is notable for the great views over Rome offered from its front staircase, and for its impressive frescoes by Daniele da Volterra.

A low-level sculpture shows a boat sinking in a fountain in a city square
Pietro Bernini's "sinking boat" fountain is a centerpiece in Piazza di Spagna © Matteo Colombo / Getty Images

Down on the piazza, you'll find the Baroque Barcaccia, the "sinking boat" fountain built by Pietro Bernini – the father of legendary artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini – in the 1620s.

To the southeast, adjacent Piazza Mignanelli is dominated by the Colonna dell’Immacolata, built in 1857 to celebrate Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the Immaculate Conception.

Rules: don't sit down!

A new law introduced in 2019 prohibits people from sitting on the Spanish Steps to protect the monumental staircase from being damaged. While you are unlikely to be fined – official penalties can reach €400 – the police will ask you to stand up if you are found enjoying the comfort of the step’s sunkissed travertine.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Tridente, Trevi & the Quirinale attractions

1. Fontana della Barcaccia

0.01 MILES

This 1627 fountain of a sinking boat is believed to be by Pietro Bernini, father of the more famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It was supposedly modelled on a…

2. Keats-Shelley House

0.02 MILES

This house next to the Spanish Steps is where English poet John Keats died of tuberculosis aged only 25. Its bookshelf-lined rooms, practically unchanged…

3. Chiesa della Trinità dei Monti

0.06 MILES

Sitting in majesty above the Spanish Steps, this landmark church was commissioned by King Louis XII of France and consecrated in 1585. Apart from the…

4. Via dei Condotti


High-rolling shoppers and window-dreamers take note: this is Rome’s smartest shopping strip. At the eastern end, near Piazza di Spagna, Caffè Greco was a…

5. Villa Medici

0.16 MILES

Built for Cardinal Ricci da Montepulciano in 1540, this sumptuous Renaissance palace was purchased by Ferdinando de' Medici in 1576 and remained in Medici…

6. Galleria d'Arte Moderna

0.22 MILES

This gallery housed in an 18th-century Carmelite convent has a collection of art and sculpture from the 20th century that includes works by Italian…

7. Via Margutta

0.23 MILES

Visit the antique shops, commercial art galleries and artisanal boutiques of Via Margutta, one of Rome's prettiest pedestrian cobbled lanes.

8. Gagosian Gallery

0.24 MILES

The Rome branch of Larry Gagosian’s contemporary art empire has hosted the big names of contemporary art since it opened in 2007: Cy Twombly, Damien Hirst…