When In Rome…Walk by the Tiber River and discover the millenarian history of the ‘Eternal City’
Rome wasn’t built in a day and a way to appreciate that is to take a stroll by the river and see the beautiful bridges built by the Romans and the Popes over the last 2000 years…and by the way It’s another Free thing to do when in Rome!
Start your walking tour from Ponte Milvio, the bridge that connects the ancient Via Flaminia to Piazza del Popolo. This is one of the oldest bridges in Rome with a rich history of conspiracies and fights. Right here in 312 A.D. Constantine defeated his rival Massentius in the famous Battle of Milvian Bridge. Since then the bridge has been the witness of many more battles including the latest in 2006 when the bridge began attracting couples, who use a lamppost on the bridge to hang padlocks as a sign of their love then throwing the key behind them into the Tiber.
Ponte Milvio is also a lively neighbourhood with lots of bars, local trattorias, fancy restaurants & tasty wine bars. It becomes very very crowded on week ends after 10 PM!
Following the river you’ll come across several nice bridges built after the 1870 when Rome became the Capital of Italy.
Keep walking until you reach one of best known Roman bridges: Ponte Sant’Angelo. Built in 136 A.D. by Emperor Hadrian to allow access to his Mausoleum now known as St. Angel Castle. The Angel you see on top of the Castle was designed by Bernini. Today the castle has been made even more famous by Dan Brown’s latest novel Angels & Demons for the Illuminati ‘Passetto’, the fortified passage that connects the castle to the Vatican Palaces!
Pass the Vatican and follow the river until you reach Ponte Sisto that connects Trastevere to the Campo dè Fiori. It has a long history that dates back to the 12 B.C. but what we see today was built by Sisto IV in 1475 to connect the newly redeveloped area of Via Giulia & Farnese square to the food warehouses located on the Trastevere side. This charming area is where most Romans would love to live, including me!
Some more walking and you’ll see the inspiring Tiber Island, a boat-shaped island which has long been associated with healing. Two bridges join the island to the city: Ponte Fabricius built in 62 B.C. and still intact today on the Jewish quarter side, and Ponte Cestio built in 46 B.C. on the trastevere side. Caio Cestio had a brother and you can still see his peculiar monument built to hold his ashes in the nearby Via Ostiense, hard to miss: It’s a Pyramid!
Just few yards and you’ll see in the middle of the river the vestigial remains of the Palatinum Bridge. It was the first stone bridge to span the Tiber. Originally was called the Pons Aemilius, the pillars of this ancient bridge date from 179 B.C., while the arches connecting them date from 142 BC. It was repaired several times from the 13 B.C. onwards until the final collapse in 1598, when it was nicknamed by the pragmatic Romans Ponte Rotto, Broken Bridge.
Anther short walk and you’ll see the Pons Sublicius: the oldest and most famous of the bridges across the Tiber, built, according to tradition, by Ancus Martius. It was constructed of wood without metal and it was under the direct care of the college of pontiffs, its preservation was a matter of religion, and any injury caused by floods was regarded as a prodigy. From the Pontiffs word it comes Pontiff or Pope!
On the way especially in the trastevere area you’ll see many kiosks selling grattachecca, a summer tradition in Rome! It consists of manually scratched ice flavored with fruit juice, stop by and taste what, on popular accounts, date backs to ancient Roman dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus!