Tiber Island: the island of secrets

The XXV Edition of L’Isola del Cinema is on its way, full of events and surprises
18 April 2019
“Mamma Roma e le Città Metropolitane” Short film contest In partnership with ROMA BEST PRACTICES AWARD
6 May 2019


Did you know that, on the Tiber Island, you can see the oldest Roman bridge in Rome?

It’s Pons Fabricius, commissioned by Lucious Fabricius and built in 64 b.C. to replace an earlier wooden bridge destroyed by fire.

It’s right, if you used to think that the Milvian Bridge was the oldest roman bridge in use, you were wrong. Even though it is actually older that our dear Fabricius, the Milvian Bridge has been partially destroyed and rebuilt several times during the centuries. On the other hand, Pons Fabricius is still existing in its original state!


A medieval tower rises on the Tiber Island, built in XIV-XVI: the famous Caetani Tower.

this evocative and charming place is also known under the name of #TorredellaPulzella, because of the small marble head placed on the tower corner, facing the bridge. Even though the statue has been dated to the Julio-Claudian era, the legend has it that it depicts the face of a young girl from 1300 who, forced to marry a man she did not love, refused the wedding and spent her days waiting at the window for her beloved to come back.


Inside the Saint Bartholomew church, already well known for its structure in layers (it was built on the ruins of God Aesculapius’ Temple) there is something peculiar: a cannon ball!

Set inside the walls of the chapel of the SS. Sacramento, it was shoot during the siege of the Roman Republic by the Frenchs in 1849. No one was hurt by the cannon ball, even though the church was crowded with believers.


The Saint Bartholomew church rises on the ruins of the Aesculapius’ Temple, god of medicine to whom the Island was consecrated. During the plague, some wise romans were sent to Greece to bring a statue of the god to Rome to heal the sick. In Epidaurus, a snake – symbol of the god –  got on the roman ship and once arrived near the Tiber Island it slithered on the island and pointed to the place where it was the god’s will to build the temple.

The “bow” of the ship is still visible on the island, since it was engraved into the marble when the island was “shaped” to resemble a ship.


On the Tiber Island there is a pinnacled square column, with a cross on top of it. This peculiar column was built in 1869 to replace the destroyed older one.

The older column was called the “Infamous’ column” and it was built during the XIV century, and during the celebrations of Saint Bartholomew’s day, the clergyman used to hang the names of those who did not attend the Easter’s day Mass on the column.

The “infamous column” was built to replace an old roman obelisk that used to rise on the square of the island – now kept in several museums – and that represented the “mainmast” of the Aesculapius’s ship.


It is the most symbolic monument related to the Tiber Island, but do we really know the incredible and unlucky history of the ruins of the #PonteRotto (the broken bridge).

It was called Pons Aemilius, since it was built by Manilius Aemilius Lepidus in 241 b.C. It was pivotal to the city since it linked three key points in Rome: the Capitol, the roman Court (the Forum) and Circus Maximus.

For this reason, despite its several collapses, it has always been rebuilt. In that area of the Tiber the waters flow at high speed, causing several damages to the bridge structure. The bridge has been rebuilt several times during the centuries, especially in 1500 and 1600. In 1600 a major flood destroyed it once again, and three of the six arches collapsed.

In 1853 the bridge was embedded into a metallic structure, since the institutions decided it was no longer useful to try to keep the bridge accessible. The ruins of the three arches are all that remains of the original stone structure of the roman bridge,

Despite its unfortunate life, now its ruins are embellished by the green of the Tiber flora that makes it an amazing and remarkable monument in the city’s landscape.