Piazza di Spagna, or the Spanish Steps, with the stairs that lead to Trinità dei Monti, is one of the most famous squares in Rome. It owns its name to the Spanish Palace, the seat of the Spanish Embassy at the Holy See.
In the middle of the square we find the famous Fontana della Barcaccia, the "Fountain of the ugly Boat", built in the first part of the Baroque age, sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The fountain has the shape of a half-sunken ship in an oval tub, with bow and stern having the same shape, and water overflowing its bows. Besides the two sculptures in the shape of two suns with a human face, two pontifical crests complete the decorations, with the papal tiara and the bees to represent the Barberini family, placed at the ends of the ship, between two cannon mouths. For the first time a fountain was conceived to be an artistic sculpture, abandoning the classic geometrical basin.
According to a popular and much shared version of the story, its unusual shape might have been inspired by the presence of the square of an wrecked boat, taken there by the 1598 flood of the river Tevere (Tiber), in memory of which the Pope would have commissioned the creation of the fountian. Another version is that originally the place was used as a small boat warehouse (naumachia). In both cases, the name "Barcaccia" describes a boat in bad conditions, at risk of sinking.