June 29, 2011, Lazio, Notes, Roma, Travel & Tourism

5 steps to Rome

Steps to Rome: Rome is famous for its steps and staircases, and most of them are attractions in their own right and not just something you happen to stumble across on your way to other sights.

Here is my Top 5 of the most extraordinary steps in the city.

steps to Rome

Spanish Steps Rome. Photo: Z_dead CreativeCommons

The Spanish Steps is the widest and one of the most momentous staircases in Europe. The construction of the 135 steps leading from Piazza di Spagna to Piazza Trinità dei Monti was build in 1723-1725 according to designs by by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi to celebrate the peace treaty between France and Spain, linking the top of the hill (under French influence, with the church of Trinità dei Monti and French monastic institutions) to the Spanish embassy at the bottom of the hill. In the Renaissance, Piazza di Spagna at the foot of the stairs was lined with hotels, inns and residences where artists and writers stayed while in Rome. In consequence, the square and the Spanish Steps became one of the most it one of most frequently painted and described attractions in city.

steps to Rome

helix stairs, Rome. Photo: ciccioetneo CreativeCommons

One of the most beautiful staircases in Rome is the helix stairs in the Vatican Museums. The broad steps actually consist of two intertwined spirals; one leads up and another leads down to street level from the floor of the Museums. Compared to most other sights in Rome the twisted staircase is not that old, it was designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932, but it is extremely popular – both as a sight and as a symbol of life, due to its resemblance to the double helix DNA strand (which was, however, discovered later).

steps to Rome

Scala Sancta, Rome. Photo: uitdragerij CreativeCommons

In Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano you’ll find the Scala Sancta Jesus had to climb on his way to his trial by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. How the staircase ended up in Rome beats me, but the teleportation is normally attributed to Saint Helena who had a special talent for finding Christian relics. The 28 steps in wood encased white marble have been an important pilgrim site for centuries and if you kneel you can still see the marks left by the blood of Christ on the marble.

steps to Rome

Peter’s square, Rome. Photo: marfis75 CreativeCommons

Still in the Vatican, I can’t help mentioning the stairs to the dome of Saint Peter’s. It is an extremely crammed and narrow winding staircase leading to a magnificent and dizzying view Saint Peter’s Square and Rome. On the internet, people argue about whether there are 320 or 500 steps to the top. I didn’t keep count, but it is a hard climb, and a lot of people prefer to take the elevator part of the way.

steps to Rome

Capitoline Hill, Rome. Photo: Jean & Nathalie CreativeCommons

Capitoline Hill between the Forum and Campus Martius is one of the seven hills in Rome and the only one incorporated in an urban plan by Michelangelo.The Renaissance artist and architect designed Piazza del Campidoglio with the surrounding palaces. Ascending the hill Michelangelo devised a sloping Cordonata with steps so wide that horse riders could ascend without dismounting, and the monumental balustrade guarded by giant statues of Castor and Pollux, the twin brothers who, according to legend, fought at the head of the Roman army at the Battle of Lake Regillus and subsequently brought news of the victory back to Rome.

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25 Comments

June 29, 2011 3:07 pm

Kris Koeller

This is a great list. I’ve been pining to see Rome for years, and Italy is really the only country in Europe I haven’t visited. Looking forward to it!

June 29 2011 15:16 pm

admin

I'm sure you won't be disappointed:)

June 30, 2011 10:04 am

Sophie

Great idea for an article. I’ve been sitting on the Spanish steps a million times and often pondered why they’re called Spanish. Never remembered to check, though, so thanks for that info. Also, never climbed to the top of St Peter’s; didn’t know it was possible. Will next time. I’ll remember to count the steps :)

June 30 2011 10:24 am

admin

Thanks. Hope you'll let me know where the count ends, because I inevitably lose the thread, before I reach the top.

June 30, 2011 2:52 pm

Emily @travelated

Wow! You’d never need a gym membership in Rome–just climb some steps! I want to try the Helix Stairs.

What a great idea for a post :)

June 30, 2011 3:03 pm

Cathy Sweeney

What an interesting article! I haven’t been to Rome and didn’t know about these staircases. Hope to climb them all myself sometime.

June 30, 2011 5:50 pm

Abby

There’s something so romantic about a gorgeous staircase!

June 30, 2011 8:03 pm

Laurel

What an interesting idea for an article. I think the Helix Stairs were my favorite.

August 02 2011 08:33 am

admin

Hi Laurel, They're mine too - I find the eternal circle has an instant appeal.

July 1, 2011 12:17 am

Don Faust

Great list. I love Rome – was just there just a couple of month’s ago. I really loved the Scala Sancta – managed to get off a great shot from the top of the stairs.

August 02 2011 08:32 am

admin

Hi Don, I find it hard to photograph those places, so I'd love to see your shot.

July 1, 2011 2:00 pm

The Radar: Rome’s Five Best Steps, Fly or Drive?, What Not to Do on a RTW Trip – Intelligent Travel

[…] In a city entrenched in rich history, it’s hard to know which one of Rome’s many architectural marvels to see first. Check out Italian Notes blog to get an insider’s view on the city’s five best steps. [Italian Notes] […]

July 1, 2011 5:26 pm

LindyLouMac in Italy

The Spanish Steps will always be my favourite steps in Roma.

August 02 2011 08:30 am

admin

Judging from the crowds, a lot of people seem to share that view:)

July 1, 2011 6:18 pm

A travel blog » The Radar: Rome’s Five Best Steps, Fly or Drive?, What Not to Do on a RTW Trip

[…] In a city entrenched in rich history, it’s hard to know which one of Rome’s many architectural marvels to see first. Check out Italian Notes blog to get an insider’s view on the city’s five best steps. [Italian Notes] […]

July 1, 2011 7:09 pm

Stephanie – The Travel Chica

I heart Rome! I have only been once for 3 days, so I didn’t really know about all of the staircases. A creative post.

August 02 2011 08:29 am

admin

Thanks Stephanie, It's always nice to have something to look forward to.

July 1, 2011 7:13 pm

Rennie Severn

The Spanish Steps is the widest and one of the most momentous staircases in Europe. The construction of the 135 steps leading from Piazza di Spagna to Piazza Trinità dei Monti was build in 1723-1725 according to designs by by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi to celebrate the peace treaty between France and Spain, linking the top of the hill (under French influence, with the church of Trinità dei Monti and French monastic institutions) to the Spanish embassy at the bottom of the hill. In the Renaissance, Piazza di Spagna at the foot of the stairs was lined with hotels, inns and residences where artists and writers stayed while in Rome. In consequence, the square and the Spanish Steps became one of the most it one of most frequently painted and described attractions in city.

August 1, 2011 4:46 pm

Italian Notes | My 7 Links

[…] most popular post is undoubtedly 5 steps to Rome focusing on steps and staircases in the Italian capital. Reader attention always soars for blog […]

August 1, 2011 5:51 pm

ciaochowlinda

Great idea for a blog post. I’ve been to all those places but that spiral staircase at the Vatican museum is the most elegant.

August 02 2011 08:27 am

admin

You're right. The spiral is my favourite, too, but they all lead to different experiences:)

August 7, 2011 5:14 pm

Donna Hull

What a unique idea for an article. Very creative. The next time I’m in Rome, I’ll be looking at steps with a new perspective.

January 30, 2012 4:17 pm

Turkey’s For Life

THIS is a great post, especially now I can read with eyes of someone who will be going to Rome soon. The Spanish Steps and the helix stairs look spectacular. :)
Julia
Turkey’s For Life recently posted…So, What For The Future Of Marmaris?My Profile

May 3, 2012 3:04 am

Christina Stockton

I love the pictures of the stairs! I am very much looking forward to seeing them myself next month.

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