The Not-So-Spanish Steps by One Day in Italy

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I walked by, around, through the Spanish Steps on my way from Piazzo Popolo back toward the Pantheon. I knew it was one of “those things” you had to see when in Rome, but I didn’t know much about them. Why, for instance, are they called the Spanish Steps? We’re in Rome, after all.

When I looked into it a bit, the actual story was even more ironic. It turns out the so-called “Spanish Steps” were actually built using funds allocated for the project in French diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s will. Gueffier left 20,000 scudi (an Italian currency used until the 19th century) for the express purpose of connecting the French Trinità dei Monti church that now sits at the top of the steps with the square below. Via Condotti, the road leading from this part of town toward the Vatican, connects with the piazza, thus giving the French church a straight shot to the Vatican (as they saw it, at least). The steps started out being known as ”Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti”, or just “La Scalinata” for short.

The Spanish Embassy to the Holy See, however, is also located on the square (thus the name), and shortly after the steps completion travelers and locals alike started referring to them as The Spanish Steps, or “Scalinata Spagna”. Poor Gueffier. Can you imagine being the French diplomat who funded the building of the Spanish Steps? It doesn’t get much more ironic than that!

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