Romantic centre of nineteenth-century Rome, already in the fifteenth century it assumed a very important commercial role due to the presence of many hotels and houses inhabited by foreigners, attracted to this area by the representatives of the Spanish and French governments.
On entering the piazza, you are immediately taken aback by such elegance: the yellow, brownish ochre-coloured buildings, Bernini’s fountain and the celebrated Spanish Steps rising up towards the Church of SS. Trinità dei Monti, all helping to create a refined, 18th century atmosphere. It is therefore no coincidence that high-fashion brands, such as Gucci, Bulgari and Valentino, all have show-piece shops just off the piazza. Home to English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, the world-famous piazza, located at the foot of the Pincio Hill, has always been considered both a priceless cultural gem as well as a popular tourist attraction.
The Spanish Steps (1723-26) were built, under the pontificate of Innocent XIII and the direction of the Roman architect Francesco De Santis, to be the meeting place for all citizens. On the top of the Steps is the church of SS.Trinità dei Monti, founded in 1495, while in the center of the square is the fountain known as the "Barcaccia" (1626-29) by Pietro Bernini, father of Gian Lorenzo. The fountain has the shape of a boat with identical prow and stern and is immersed in an oval pool. The edges of the sides are very low, giving the impression that the boat is about to sink. On the outside of the bow and stern there are two large coats of arms of Urban VIII with three bees; on the sides of the coats of arms the water comes out from false gunners' mouths.
The term "barcaccia" refers to the boats used on the Tiber in the nearby port of Ripetta. Other inspiring reasons for the fountain are probably to be found in the news according to which there was a naumachia in the area - an open-air building where naval games and battles with miniature warships were held - and in the floods of the Tiber, which dragged the boats up to the foot of the Trinità de' Monti.
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