Living in Rome
My favourite time to go to Piazza di Spagna is early in the morning, between 8 and 9 am, before it gets too busy. The light is already quite bright, but still clear, and the atmosphere peaceful. I particularly like the tall palm trees against the ochre buildings and deep blue sky. The rest of the day, it is usually overcrowded, making it difficult to appreciate its beauty.
Piazza di Spagna was the culmination of the Baroque style in Rome, with its majestic steps leading to the church of Trinita dei Monti, its palaces and fountain. The famous sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini designed together with his father Pietro, the massive Fontana della Barcaccia, representing a boat and completed in 1529. The work was initially commissioned to Pietro Bernini, but his renowned son finished it after his death. The equally famous Spanish Steps were built almost hundred years later in commemoration of the 1725 Jubilee under Pope Benedict XIII. One of its main architects was Alessandro Specchi, a member of Rome’s art academy, the Academia di San Luca, and pupil of Carlo Fontana, another Baroque architect and sculptor from the late 17th century. The idea was to link the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican to the French church of La Trinita dei Monti, after peace was concluded between the two countries under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.
In pure Baroque style, the Spanish steps open on to a long and straight avenue, the via dei Condotti followed by the via della Fontanella Borghese, leading to the Tiber river. The fashion at the time was to create strong perpectives throughout the city. When seen from the end of the lower street, the effect is spectacular.