The northern part of Rome’s centre is sometimes known as the Tridente on account of the trident shape of the roads leading down from the apex of Piazza del Popolo – Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso and Via del Babuino. The area east of Via del Corso, focusing on Piazza di Spagna, was historically the artistic quarter of the city, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Grand Tourists would come here in search of the colourful and exotic; institutions like Caffè Greco and Babington’s Tea Rooms were the meeting-places of the local expat community for close on a couple of centuries. Today these institutions have given ground to more latter-day traps for the tourist dollar, and the area around Via dei Condotti is these days strictly international designer territory. But the air of a Rome being discovered – even colonized – by foreigners persists, even if most of those hanging out on the Spanish Steps are flying-visit teenagers.
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The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps
The only Spanish feature of the Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Spagna) is the fact that they lead down to the Spanish Embassy, which also gave the piazza its name. Sweeping down in a cascade of balustrades and balconies, in the nineteenth century the steps were the hangout of young hopefuls waiting to be chosen as artists’ models. Nowadays the scene is not much changed, with the steps providing the venue for international posing and flirting late into the summer nights. At the top is the Trinità dei Monti, a largely sixteenth-century church designed by Carlo Maderno and paid for by the French king. Its rose-coloured Baroque facade overlooks the rest of Rome from its hilltop site, and it’s worth clambering up just for the views, but do look inside for a couple of works by Daniele da Volterra, notably a soft, flowing fresco of the Assumption in the third chapel on the right, which includes a portrait of his teacher Michelangelo, and a Deposition across the nave.