Five Romantic Bridges in Rome
Rome’s Tiber or Tevere river may be one of the most languid, dull waterways flowing through any European capital and out to the sea past Fiumicino Airport. Starlings cause a racket – and a mess – when they come back to the trees along the river at night. And homeless people use the area under the bridges as their living room (- and bathroom). But even so, there’s something inherently romantic about strolling along water in the twilight hours, when the sun sets over the ancient pillars and domes.
Unlike the Seine or the Thames, the Tiber is no longer navigable. Silting and sedimentation has closed it off for traffic and moved life from the river to high embankments, where even houses keep their distance.
In between the wide avenues along the river banks, dozens of bridges hold the city together. The Romans were the world’s first major bridge builders, and even though most of the constructions are relatively new, these five bridges do call for a beguiled and captivated sigh.
Ponte Fabricio is the oldest bridge in Rome, still in everyday use. It connects the Jewish ghetto with the Isola Tiberina island. Guarded by two marble pillars with two-faced Janus heads, the bridge is a symbol of transitions and beginnings, a place from where you can see the future and the past.
In the Middle Ages, Isola Tiberina was consecrated to the god of medicine. This was reinforced by the presence of a spring of health-giving water, so the island became a place of healing and hospitals. A position it has maintained up to the present.
A little further north a footbridge connects the popular night-life areas near Campo de’ Fiori with Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere where people gather for an apperitivo.
The bridge is characteristic because of its central ‘Occulus’ or eye and has been featured in films, music videos and adverts.
The most famous and elegant bridge in Rome is undoubtedly Ponte Sant’Angelo leading from the city to Castel Sant’Angelo, where an angle is said to have appeared to announce the end of the plague. In the past, pilgrims used this bridge to reach St. Peter’s Basilica, and in 1450 the crowds were so great the bridge yielded and many pilgrims drowned. Later, the bridge was used to expose the bodies of the executed, there was a toll to finance the marble statues, before modern tourists took over free of charge.
Look over the parapet and you’ll see a nice, little city beach. The best view and photo of the bridge and St Peter’s Basilica can be had from Ponte Umberto I.
As a bridge Ponte Cavour does not stand out, if it hadn’t been for a jobless Belgian lifeguard who on New Years Day 1946 decided to take a dive from the 17 metre high bridge in order to advertise his skills. Since then ‘il tuffo di Capodanno’ has become a tradition even though firefighters and police try to call it off. The stunt is regarded as dangerous, as the waters of the Tevere are cold and muddy and the river is not really deep enough for a dive from such a height. One man, the 58-year-old Maurizio Palmulli, has taken the plunge 23 times.
This bridge in northern Rome was the site of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and a place of economic and strategic importance in the era of the Roman Empire.
In 2006 Ponte Milvio featured in the film ‘Ho voglio di te’ as a place where young couples locked their love to a lamppost with a padlock and threw the key in the river. A year later there were so many padlocks that the lamppost collapsed. Instead the padlocks were attached to every other surface at hand, including some steel wires erected to the purpose. In general Ponte Milvio is a popular place for young people to hang around or meet before going to the nearby bars.