Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Photo Essay: A Particular History Of The Tiber's Bridges
Fall beauty as usual along the Tiber Fall beauty as usual along the Tiber

It isn't possible to separate the history of the bridges of Rome from that of their city or, for that matter, from the history of Italy itself. So I read recently when I discovered some special web pages on the official City of Rome website (main site text, Italian only – for English section, go here).
The section of pages is titled I Ponti di Roma (The Bridges of Rome), and here is a translation of the introduction.
The section "The Bridges of Rome" was born from a project by a young man named Luca Carboni, a graduate of LUMSA (Libera Università Maria Ss. Assunta, a Roman Catholic university in Rome), who died in tragic circumstances* in the summer of 2005.
To honor the memory of Luca, who had a deep love for the city and culture of the Bridges of Rome, Mayor Walter Veltroni and the Rector of the Libera Università Maria SS Assunta, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, have brought back to life in these pages the ambitious project of the young man.
"The Bridges of Rome" aims to be an historical-technical archive for all the city bridges of Rome. Within the section, it is possible to find information, curiosities and photographs of all twenty-seven of the city bridges.
In memory of Luca, city officials awarded a special scholarship to communications science students at LUMSA, inviting them to contribute original work for the Bridges of Rome pages (Italian only).
For the text in this Tiber river photo essay, I am including excerpts (translated) from the bridges section.
*According to news reports, Luca was the victim of a random violent crime while in Spain with his wife. He had only recently graduated from LUMSA.

Pedestrian walkways: City officials describe it as one of the most enchanting and romantic tourist walks in Rome – Il Lungotevere (along the Tiber). You can stroll along on the sidewalk at street level, high above the river banks and look down on its flow, or you can go on foot or by bicycle on the wide paved route that winds along just above water level. Long stretches of the river walk are shaded by giant sycamore trees whose branches arch gracefully down over the Tiber banks.

Ponte Fabricio: It is the oldest surviving bridge in Rome. It was build in 62 B.C., to replace the bridge of wood that had existed since 192 B.C., to connect the Tiberina island to the left bank of the Tiber. The tiny land mass is located in the middle of the river as it runs through the center of the city. Splitting the river into two narrow channels, the island offered an easy ford of the flow, and led to the first settlement of the exact area that later became Rome itself.

Tourism signs with historical information are posted near the Rome bridges.

The Tiber narrows as it flows between the river's left bank and the Tiberina island.

Ponte Fabricio: The Latin inscription on the bridge in Rome features the name of L. Fabricio, the city official who was in charge of roads at the time and ordered the construction of the bridge.

Ponte Elio: Named after its originator, Emperor Publio Elio Adriano, the bridge crosses the Tiber directly in front of Castel Sant'Angelo. It was designed by the architect Demetriano in 136 A.D. The strength and stability of the bridge is so extraordinary that throughout its long existence, none of the many floods along the Tiber has ever overwhelmed or damaged it.

Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, in Rome with Castel Sant'Angelo rising behind: When the ancient Elio bridge near Castel Sant'Angelo could no longer handle the greatly increased traffic that accompanied the building boom in Rome in the early 1900s, city officials built this Vittorio Emanuele II bridge. Named after the king currently in power, the span was completed in 1911. It features four large, marble sculpture groups symbolizing respectively, the Unity of Italy, Liberty, Triumph over Oppression, and Fidelity to Italy's Constitution.

Ponte Principe Amedeo: One of the newer bridges of Rome, it was completed in 1942. Designed in a modern style, the bridge is named after Prince Amedeo di Savoia-Aosta. The prince was an Italian military hero of World War II.

A Principe Amedeo bridge tourism information sign framed, in the fall, by the turning leaves of one of the giant sycamores that line some stretches of the walk along the Tiber.

Seeing the city of Rome inquadrato (framed in a picturesque way) is one of the primary pleasures of taking a walk along the Tiber. Here one of Rome's many church domes rises above the fall foliage of the many sycamores lining the banks of the river.

Above the high embankment walls of the Tiber, a view that brings to mind Rome as the Eternal City – the classic and sacred church edifice sharing its space with modern and commercial advertising panels.
by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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