For the Western world, Rome is arguably the most important city in our collective history. It is from Rome that the civilization and roots of western culture erupted in a torrent of creativity and innovation. Modern Rome is a beautiful place that tugs at your soul. There are a few places on this planet that will literally insert themselves into your life, get under your skin and change the person you are. Rome is one of those places and I am happy to have been able to visit for several days last year. There are many places in Rome in the 1000 Places to See Before You Die guide book, and the Spanish Steps are one of the most striking sites.
The Spanish Steps are a relatively young part of the thousands of years old city of Rome but they have become an important part of the city's identity. Completed in the 1700's the Spanish Steps exist next to the Spanish embassy in Rome and were named for that fact. They are the widest staircase in Europe and are visited by millions of people. Tourists and even locals will stop and rest upon the famous steps taking pictures and people watching for hours on end. When Sarah and I were in Rome, it was in September, a busy tourist season. However, we could still find a spot to sit on the steps. Many stops in our site seeing brought us by the steps and they became a familiar landmark for us. Like every tourist does, we also took pictures of ourselves on the steps. However, we are very proud of a series of photographs we took of us standing on the Spanish Steps completely alone.
On the morning of our day trip to Florence, we boarded the subway at the station next to the Spanish Steps for the first ride out to the main train terminal. As we passed by the steps in the early hours of the morning we saw a remarkable site -- the Spanish Steps were completely empty. No tourists or even city workers were to be seen on any of the 138 steps or around the fountain in the piazza below. We had to stop and record that very special moment. You can see in the first picture of this post what it looked like to have the steps all to ourselves.
At the base of the Spanish Steps in the Piazza di Spagna, the Fountain of the Old Boat (Fontana della Barcaccia) sits and is usually surrounded by tourists. That morning, it too was devoid of people and it was really quite amazing to be able to see it with an unobstructed view.
Rome is crawling with people. The people are what make the city hum with activity and give it the energy that makes you love the place for a lifetime. This crowd of people is made up of resourceful Romans making a living off of the throngs of tourists who are weaving in and out of the narrow streets and pesky foreign street vendors. All these groups mix together to create the living city of Rome that is so completely unique in this world. Everyone is always on the move and the Spanish Steps feel like the place they're all rushing to be at. The incredibly diverse cross section of Rome's people all converge on these steps and its really quite a site to see. Sarah and I were also fortunate to see the steps devoid of the mass of humanity. We got to appreciate the beauty of these steps in the silence of the pre-dawn darkness before the crowds gathered for another day's worth of activity.
We try to do or see things out of the ordinary on our trips. Sometimes we can plan for it, and sometimes they happen by accident. We didn't know that an early morning walk past the Spanish Steps would result in such a unique experience, but this accident was well worth it. We got to see the most famous staircase in Europe at all times of the day in all its glory. As usual, this addition to the 1000 Places to See Before You Die was completely deserving of its place on the list.
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