135 steps - oro, plata or mata?

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Thursday, May 1, 2014


WE PINOYS are a superstitious bunch, admit it or not. Call the architect to build a home and one design element should (seriously) be taken into account is the number of steps on the stairs.

Yes, the number will matter, there has to be 1, 4, 7 or 10 (the next is 13 but I don’t know if the superstitious ones will agree to having this number anywhere in their homes), the designated “oro” or gold in the sequence to bring luck into the home.

Although “plata” or silver is not bad either, no Pinoy would like to end their steps on “mata” or death. Bad luck in the home is not such a nice thought.

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For the famous monumental stairway in Rome, Italy, the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti or more popularly know as the Spanish Steps, the steps numbers at 135. It falls on “mata” or “death,” which is bad luck…for the Pinoys, at least, and not in this part of the globe.

If you ask me, this landmark is good luck. Why else did I make it back on these steps? I have to thank a dear friend, Tenny A. and his family, for letting me tag along on their European sojourn. In good company, it was like the first visit for me as well.

The Spanish Steps is the widest staircase in Europe and is one of the busiest tourist spots in Rome. The steep slope links Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinia dei Monti at the top.

From both ends of the stairs, the views are captivating. Looking towards the top, the church of the Santissima Trinita dei Monti stands majestically at the piazza. The façade was said to be a design of a follower of Michaelangelo.

Fronting the church is an obelisk, the Obelisco Sallustiano, one of the many obelisks in the ancient city of Rome. Imitated from the Egyptian design, the Roman obelisk was moved to the present position in 1789.

From the top of the Spanish Steps, the view below is just as appealing. As you make your way down the steep slope, you get to see the house where the famous English Poet John Keats lived (now a museum dedicated to him and fellow writer and friend Percy Bysshe Shelley) and the last step opens up to one of the most famous squares in the city, the Piazza di Spagna, named after the Palazzo di Spagna, the seat of the Embassy of Spain.

The most interesting part of the piazza sits on the middle of the square—the famous Early Baroque piece called the Fontana della Barcaccia or the Fountain of the Old Boat (often times referred to as the Ugly Boat fountain). The half-sunken ship with water overflowing its bows designed by Pietro Bernini in collaboration with his (more famous) son, Gian Lorenzo Bernini was commissioned by Pope Urbano VIII to commemorate the disastrous flood of 1598 caused by Tiber River.

But maybe for a good number of tourists, the area means a little more to them than what history can offer. The streets beyond Piazza di Spagna—Via Condotti and Via del Babuino, are destinations as well, of the shopping kind. These are two of the most glamorous streets in Rome where rows of the most prestigious boutiques can be found. Is that good or bad luck?

Now back to the Spanish Steps. Day and night tourists crowd the area and the Pinoy in me still wonders why at 135 steps with a “mata” last step the stairs is so popular.

The secret is on the additional step at the bottom of the staircase. Although the Spanish Steps has officially 135 steps, the slightly elevated drainage system at the bottom of the staircase is often mistaken for the first step, and in feng shui, that is a remedy for bad luck. Unofficially, the top step is an “oro.” Now, that’s good luck.

For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and
http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 01, 2014.

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