Monday, February 1, 2010

The Living Room of Rome

A short ride in the metro from near the Trevi Fountain is another Roman location often seen in movies. The confusingly named Spanish Steps, officially called Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti, were funded by the French and built to aid access to the twin towered church at the top.

The steps get their nickname from the Spanish Embassy in the piazza at the bottom which also houses the headquarters of some of Italy's high fashion houses and Italy's first MacDonalds- which was opened amid much controversy and protest. Also at the bottom is one of the most understated Baroque fountains I had seen in Rome designed by a teenage Bernini and his father. It seems more than a little odd that Fontana della Barcaccia, meaning the old boat, sits in the middle of a landlocked piazza. The best explanation I could find was that the Pope at the time had it modelled after a boat he admired that had become stranded after flooding on the river Tiber.

Also at the bottom of the steps is the house the poet John Keats lived in for a short time before he died of consumption in 1821. He had made the journey to Rome by boat, as you did in those days, already weak and very, very sick, hoping the milder Italian weather would help. Not long after arrival his doctor began aggressive treatment that included a stingy diet of 'an anchovy and a piece of bread' a day and the common practise of blood letting which may well have hastened his end. Sadly the only thing he managed to write while living in the pink house at the bottom of the steps was a line for his tombstone- Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

The outside of the house is still much the same as it was then although inside is now the Shelley Keats Museum with such treasures as a lock of Keats hair and his death mask.

The top of the 138 steps is littered with portrait artists. It was fun to sit on the balustrade with back to the view and the sun and watch them for a while. Look at all the people, a slowly advancing sea of black winter coats and hats, in the street directly opposite!

The wee church at the top is known as Trinita dei Monte- Trinity on the hill- or more specifically Santissima Trinità al Monte Pincio- Holy Trinity on Pincio hill. Begun by Louis XII, to accompany the monestary beside it, in the 16th century it was 80 years before it was finally consecrated.

Inside is a small simple interior with a wide congressional belly full of wooden pews and niches with canvases...

..a marble sculpture by one of Michelangelo's proteges and some intricate frescos.

Outside, the pièce de résistance is of course the view which stretches all the way to the horizon, a jigsaw of roofs and spires, domes and windowed arches- the shapes of Rome.

On our way back to the metro I could't resist snapping this shot of a Roman fortune teller. It was hard to tell if the news was good or not.


Anonymous said...

Again ... love!

We are hoping to plan a short trip to Italy this summer ... and I'm over the moon

Natalie said...

Just can't get enough! Did you get your fortune told? I think I wouldn't have been able to resist, however foolish, in such a romantic place...

Connie said...

Wow! amazing the detail, and sheer amount to see, in a city that has been around and occupied so long. Even the cobbles under the chair of the fortune teller are visually interesting.