There are a lot of small walks covered in City of the Sould, A Walk Through Rome and while most of them are around parts that most tourists overlook or don't make the top ten list, the Spanish Steps are right up at the top. What I liked about this particular walking tour though was all the funny everyday history that the author gives you.
Before the square was the Piazza di Spagna it was known as the Piazzi di Francia. For the longest time the entire square and the area was overlooked and neglected, even a haven for thieves, criminals and women of the night.
Because of diplomatic dominion, many of the people that were getting away with their crimes were able to hide. This also made it hard for anyone in the city that actually cared to do anything about it. Finally the Pope got tired of all the complaints and the number of people that were committing crimes and then hiding out in the area so he went in and rounded up everyone, or rather had someone go in and round them up. The part that I found interesting was that the men, regardless of their crimes just got thirty lashes and were let go, and this only applied to about thirty. The women that were rounded up all got five years in prison, all one hundred and twenty of them.
As soon as the place was cleared out, the surrounding neighborhoods got bigger and people started passing through more. Then little hotels and cafes set up and before you knew it, the Piazza was being listed in travel guidebooks that were sold to Europeans on the Grand Tour. An artist neighborhood grew, on account of the low rents, models began to hang out in the hopes of being booked to model. We all know about the famous people to hang out here, mention the Steps, write about their time there.
The Keats-Shelley Memorial House sits at the steps of the Spanish Steps, I didn't get to visit when I was in Rome, but its on my list.
One part of the Piazza that I never really paid attention to was the fountain, because almost every square has a fountain and they all start to blend after a while. I remember thinking it looked odd and it wasn't as grand as some of the other ones I spotted so I never took a picture (this was back in the film roll days so I was a lot more discriminating about how many pictures I took).
Known as the Barcaccia Fountain, or the old boat, which was built in 1623 by one of the Berninis. The story behind it was that there was flooding in 1621 and an old boat was left behind in the square when the Tiber River returned to its banks. The water from the fountain comes from the oldest of Rome's aqueducts and was the best water in Rome.
Stay tuned for the next walking tour of Rome, and if you haven't already seen the first, here it is: