Tiber River and Tiber Island

The Tiber is the third longest river in Italy and is the has achieved lasting fame as the main watercourse of the city of Rome, founded on its eastern banks.

According to legend, the city of Rome was founded in 753 BC on the banks of the Tiber about 25 kilometres (16 mi) from the sea at Ostia. The island Isola Tiberina in the centre of Rome, between Trastevere and the ancient center, was the site of an important ancient ford and was later bridged. Legend says Rome’s founders, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, were abandoned on its waters, where they were rescued by the she-wolf, Lupa.

The Tiber island has always been a “place of health”. In ancient times this function was exalted by the building of shrines and temples, now long gone, dedicated to varies deities, and by the many votive offerings from the sick found. In more recent times, the tradition continued with the construction of the Basilica of San Bartolomeo in whose entrance staircase was left an ancient well of salutary water – a place of hope for the many disabled. Moreover, in 1582 the island’s other church, dedicated to San Giovanni Calibita, was entrusted to Spanish friars who set up a hospital that is still functioning today under the name of “Fatebenefratelli”, from the litany that the good friars used to chant when going out at dusk to ask for alms. The Tiber island is connected to the mainland by two ancient bridges: the Pons Cestius linking the Trastevere suburb to the island, and the Pons Fabricius, also known as “dei Quattro Capi”, whose access is guarded by the medieval Torre Caetani, links the island to the Ghetto area.

Ancient Romans considered the Tiber a god, personified in the Our Tiberinus: its annual festival (the Tiberinalia ) was celebrated on December 8, the anniversary of the foundation of the temple of the god on the Tiber Island and it was a rite of purification and atonement.

Between the 17th and 18th century were built two ports on the river: Ripa Grande (1692 ) and Ripetta (1703 ).

Unfortunately, over the centuries, the city had to live with the many river floods that caused extensive damage, often irreparable, followed, because of the mud, slush and stagnant waters, large epidemics. On many walls of the oldest houses in the vicinity of the Tiber you can still see the license plates that indicate the level reached by the water.

At the end of the Twenties of the 20th century, shipping and commercial activities related to it lost importance, especially for the changed appearance of the seabed due to a phenomenon of silting and construction of “walls”. A necessary step to protect themselves from floods, which caused a change but the whole environment Tiber, including the demolition of unique landscapes and environments such as ports of Ripetta, Ripa Grande and Leonino and modifications of ancient Roman bridges as Cestio or St. Angelo.

Nowadays, river navigation is limited to sporting purposes (e.g. rowing) and tourist boats.