The undoubted highlight of Tridente is Piazza di Spagna, which attracts hordes of Romans and tourists alike to lounge on its celebrated Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) ★★—the largest stairway in Europe—and enjoy the view onto Bernini’s “Fontana della Barcaccia,” a fountain shaped like an old boat. The Steps are especially enchanting in early spring, when they become framed by thousands of blooming azaleas, but they are heaving with flower dealers, trinket sellers, and photographers year-round.
In an odd twist, the monumental stairway of 135 steps and the square take their names from the Spanish Embassy (it used to be headquartered here), but were actually funded, almost entirely, by the French. That’s because the Trinità dei Monti church at the top was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France at the time. They were built from 1723 to 1725.
Trinità dei Monti itself is a 16th-century church with a stately baroque facade perched photogenically at the top of the Steps, behind yet another Roman obelisk, the “Obelisco Sallustiano.” It’s worth climbing up just for the views. Inside, the artistic highlights include works by Daniele da Volterra, a pupil of Michelangelo, notably a fresco of the “Assumption” in the third chapel on the right; the last figure on the right is said to be a portrait of the maestro himself. In the second chapel on the left is Volterra’s critically acclaimed “Deposition” in monochrome, which imitates a sculpture by clever use of trompe l'oeil.
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