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81. The Tiber Island, the tiny Roman Manhattan with a great History on its shores.

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

By Giulio D'Ercole -

I jokingly like to say that the Tiber Island is the small manhattan of Rome. I say this because the island has more or less the same shape as the way more famous center of New York. Though, even if the Tiber Island does not have the tall American skyscrapers nor Wall street or the Fifth Avenue and Times squares (it is actually as big as Times square), it surely is way older (compared to the USA history and not the native Americans one).

The Tiber Island is 270 metres (890 feet) long and 67 metres (220 feet) wide, and, since antiquity, it's connected to the left and right shores by two bridges: the Ponte Fabricio, the only original bridge in Rome, connects the island from the northeast to the Field of Mars in the rioneSant'Angelo (left bank), while the Ponte Cestio connects the island to Trastevere on the south (right bank).

A legend says that in 510 BC, the body of the much hated tyrant Tarquinius Superbus was thrown in the Tiber by the angry Romans . Then his body settled onto the bottom accumulating dirt and silt around itself forming the Tiber Island. Another legend says that Romans were so upset with "Tarquinio il Superbo", that gathered up all his wheat and grain and threw it into the Tiber, where it eventually became the foundation of the island.

From the historical, religious, social and cultural points of view "l'Isola Tiberina", as it is called in Italian, is important because it first was a seat of the ancient temple of Asclepius and later and then it became the site where was built the big hospital Fatebenefratelli Hospital founded in the 16th century. Right opposite the main entrance of the hospital there is the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island ,dating from the 10th century.

On one side of the road that goes from one bridge to the other, dividing the island in two, there is also a very famous typical Roman restaurant, called "Sora Lella". The place is very well known not only because of the food served, but also because "la Sora Lella" (Mrs. Lella) was Aldo Fabrizi's sister. Who was Aldo Fabrizi? He has been one of the most famous Italian/Roman actors contributing to the greatness of Neo-realismo Italian cinema genre. One of his best and most amazing performances was that of the priest in "Roma Citta' Aperta", the film by Roberto Rossellini (with Anna Magnani) who won the grand prix of the Cannes festival in 1946, and was nominated for an Oscar for the best original screenplay.

During the summer the island becomes a wonderful and vibrant place with outdoor bars, restaurants, commercial stands and even an under the stars movie theatre. Here Romans and tourists come to spend the evening and the night, looking for some fresh air, a cool breeze, a romantic view of the Tiber.

Only very few of them know that in ancient times, before Christianity spread through Rome, Tiber Island was avoided because of the negative stories associated with it. Only the worst criminals and the contagiously ill were condemned there. ..... History changes things and places, flowing like the Tiber waters do.

You can take great shots of and from the Tiber Island by booking the Romephotofuntours' workshops Rome by day and Rome by night led by Giulio D'Ercole.

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