The steps of the Church of Santa Maria d’Aracoeli were constructed in 1348 as an expression of the people’s thanks for the end of a plague. According to folk traditions, Cola di Rienzo was the first to climb these steps.
In the eighteenth century, the peasants who came to Rome to sell their produce would sleep on the steps. The prince, Caffarelli, who lived nearby, disapproved of this practice. His complaints having had no effect, the course of conduct he adopted then showed a markedly aristocratic bent – while the peasants slept, he ordered that barrels filled with stones be rolled down the steps. As a result of the injuries and deaths, the country people had to look for another spot, and did not return.
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