Before we visited Rome, we thought of getting a room near the Spanish Steps. We had the notion that the area would be terribly romantic, and like its namesake, it would possess a sultry atmosphere suffused with sexy flamenco tunes and ripe with hot-blooded passion. We would lounge lazily in a balcony overlooking the steps, sip at our sangrias, basically acquire that Spanish fiesta spirit by osmosis.
We picked another hotel further away in the end (St. Regis to be exact), but nevertheless made it a point to show up at the Spanish Steps. If you’ve visited that place, well then you can imagine our shock. The largest staircase in Europe was basically overflowing with people, and sometimes, it seems they are squeezed willy-nilly into any nook and cranny where a butt could fit. Even the fountain at the base of the steps was not spared. No flamenco tunes could be heard, and not a drop of sangria was to be found. And whatever the air was ripe with, it’s definitely not passion. It looked nothing at all like the postcards we eventually bought, and we would know. Because we returned on three different occasions just to make sure it was not a fluke (it’s not!). Back then, I haven’t yet gotten into the habit of making trips out at dawn, and thinking back, I could kick myself for it.
Nevertheless, it was still pretty interesting to stand for a while to people-watch and more importantly, puzzle over what on earth everybody was waiting for. Just don’t expect postcard material!