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In the latter half of a long day of walking around Rome I arrived at the city’s famed Spanish Steps, or “Scalina Spagna” as they are called in Italian. Normally outdoor staircases aren’t tourist attractions unto themselves, but the Spanish Steps are a very popular spot in Rome and worth a visit even if you only have time to look around for a minute and snap a quick photo. Built in the 1700s, the Spanish Steps connect the Trinità dei Monti church at the top with Piazza di Spagna at the bottom. Piazza di Spagna, or “Spanish Square,” got its name from the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See that was located there, and that’s why the stairs are called the Spanish Steps.

At the base of the steps—and right behind where I was standing to take today’s photo—is the Fontana della Barcaccia, or “Fountain of the Longboat.” The fountain was built about 100 years before the steps and looks sort of looks like a boat that’s starting to sink. A local legend says that the inspiration for it came from a boat that washed up in the square when the Tiber River flooded.

Being very wide and with 135 steps, (136 if you incorrectly count the elevated drainage system at the bottom) and flanked by some really nice looking buildings, the steps are a common meeting place for both locals and tourists, particularly in the afternoon and evening as the sun goes down. Be aware, however, that you’re not allowed to eat on the steps. In 2012 I remember seeing a couple of people snacking while seated on the steps but I’ve read online that the city government has gotten much more strict about enforcing the no food policy in the past few years. I also remember that the Trinità dei Monti church at the top of the steps was not open for tourists when I visited in 2012, but maybe that’s changed since then.

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