A Stroll along the Tiber

I’m taking you on a walk today. We’re going to see the bridges along the Tevere (Tiber). The weather couldn’t be better: 70 degrees with a slight breeze at 8 a.m. The sky is blue, and the sycamores are losing their leaves in anticipation of fall. Traffic is heavy, but that doesn’t matter when we walk along the river—it’s still peaceful and relaxing.

About two blocks south of Michael’s and my apartment, we reach Ponte Sisto, which was built between 1473 and 1479. Ponte Sisto is the pedestrian bridge that Michael and I take to cross the river into Trastevere. In the morning, people cross the bridge for business. In the afternoon and evening, vendors sell handbags and trinkets, musicians entertain passersby, and people look northwest up the river to see the top of St. Peter’s in the distance. Ponte Sisto is my second favorite bridge in our neighborhood.

Two blocks southeast of Ponte Sisto, we come to Ponte Garibaldi, which was built in 1888. The bridge also crosses the Tevere into Trastevere but in addition to people, it carries a tram line, buses, cars, and trucks. When Michael and I come to our apartment from the airport, our drivers always travel through Trastevere and cross to Lungotevere dei Vallati, the Lungotevere just below ours, on Ponte Garibaldi.

Ponte Cestio

The next bridge below Ponte Garibaldi is Ponte Cestio, a stone bridge that was built between 62 and 27 BC. Only part of the original bridge remains, and an adjacent new (and boring) bridge, Ponte Palatino, carries traffic from Trastevere to downtown Rome. Traffic flows in the British fashion on Ponte Palatino—cars travel on the left rather than on the right. Ponte Cestio is maybe a mile south of our apartment, and on the east side of the Tevere at that point lies the Jewish Ghetto. This bridge remnant is ancient and so lovely.

Let’s cross Ponte Palatino and walk north on the western side of the Tevere. We pass Ponte Garibaldi and Ponte Sisto, and in a couple of blocks we arrive at Ponte Mazzini, which was built between 1904 and 1908. Ponte Mazzini carries pedestrians and traffic across the river in both directions. Michael crosses it every morning to catch his first bus to work. He told me last night that he really enjoys his brief walk along the Tevere each morning and finds it quite calming. That’s always a good thing!

Next up is Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia Aosta, which was built in 1942. Huge amounts of traffic cross this bridge traveling east to the city center, as do some pedestrians. This is my least favorite bridge on the Tevere. It looks so utilitarian and severe, but considering when it was built, that shouldn’t surprise me. I never jaywalk here, although I do admit to jaywalking most other places. Traffic tears down the hill to the bridge, and only after the green walk sign has been on for a few seconds do I v-e-r-y cautiously step into the street.

Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, which was built from 1886 to 1911, is about six blocks northwest of Michael’s and my apartment. It runs west and is the main route to St. Peter’s and Vatican City. You’d think it would be elaborate, leading as it does to St. Peter’s, and it’s certainly more elaborate than the other bridges that we’ve seen today. It isn’t the most elaborate, however. That distinction belongs to our next bridge.

Finally, we arrive at my favorite bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo, which was built in 134 AD to connect Castel Sant’Angelo to the city of Rome. Emperor Hadrian commissioned Castel Sant’Angelo as a mausoleum for himself and his family, and it’s a massive and imposing building. Now a pedestrian bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo is guarded by statues of ten angels holding instruments of the Passion, including whips, the crown of thorns, the nail, the cross, the sponge, and the lance. Looking west we can see the dome of St. Peter’s. Ponte Sant’Angelo is glorious, and I find myself slowly crossing it every time I walk up to St. Peter’s or Vatican City.

We’ll cross Ponte Sant’Angelo and head about seven or eight blocks back home. But let’s not go in though—let’s walk to Caffé Farnese for a cappuccino. After a couple of hours of walking, snapping photos, and oohing and aahing, we’ve earned it!


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