The River Tiber is as ancient as the history of Rome, or maybe even older than it. As it snakes and twines around the city through multiple historical places, it seems as if it takes a small siesta on an ancient island named in honor of it – the Island Tiber.
Just as myths and peculiar stories are attached to every kind of historical and unexplained event, so has the Island Tiber a legend associated with its creation.
It is said that when the last king of Rome was overthrown in around 509 BC, his corpse was dumped in the River Tiber. However, it was so huge that the river could not either dissolve it or flow it away with itself. So, in the end, all of that culminated in the creation of the Tiber Island.
After a few years, they say that during a plague, a ship sent to Epidaurus arrived at Rome with a sacred snake of the God of Medicine Aesculapius. As the very ship was crossing the River Tiber, the snake jumped from the ship and settled on the island. This is why the base of the Temple of Aesculapius was built there followed by a magnificent temple.
I am a big fan of historical places. When I was in Rome, apart from visiting other popular locations, a fellow backpacker I met at the hostel suggested to visit this island just for a few hours. I did visit it and here’s what I saw. Unfortunately, my Canon camera ran out of battery and I was able to take few shots of the river with my mobile phone before it died. Walking back to my hostel was a challenge without my Google map.
Bridges rarely survive the harsh realities of history. However, the two bridges of Tiber Island, the Ponte Fabricio, which connects to the Field of Mars in the northeast, and Ponte Cestio, which connects to the Trastevere on the South, seem to have taken the huge load and survived till now. Although Ponte Cestio has seen demolitions in the past leading to the mutilation of its original shape, the Ponte Fabricio is the one and only original bridge in the whole of the Rome. Both of these bridges not only served me as observation decks but they also partly revealed the cultural truth of ancient Rome.
Nobody exactly knows in what shape the temple of Aesculapius was built; however, due to the legend, several artists and restorers tried to create the supposed shape of a ship. I was lucky enough to see two of the inscriptions of these restorative works on the midway along the Cestius Bridge. The larger one dates back to 370 BC.
On Fabricio Bridge, there are two miniature pillars on each side with 4 heads. It is said that these heads represent the four architects that had originally designed this magnificence.
Tiber Island had been a center of medical activities in the Middle Ages when the temple of Aesculapius had destroyed. Revered monks served this place and as the popularity of the site, where these activities took place, increased, a small hospital was established here with the name: Fatebenefratello Hospital.
Built even before 18th and 19th centuries, the St. Bartholomew Church occupies the square end on the other half of the Island. It is said that it was built on the ruins of the temple of Aesculapius and the pillar in the center faces the church much like an ancient cross-pillar that had substituted the obelisk of the temple.
It is the tale of Middle Ages when the Pierleoni family constructed a house in the very center of the Island. Only the tower of the house still remains and I was hell spooked by the small head of a woman which dangles on the side of it.
Right opposite to the spook house, I saw St. John Calybite’s Church. There’s a prodigy associated with this church also and one can see a copy of it. It is basically an image of the 1200s called Madonna of the Lantern and is credited with miraculously keeping a lantern beside it burning even when it was partially submerged in the flood waters in 1557.
Just in case you wanna stay here for a night, stay at Allogio Afrodite. It’s inside the historical city center and walking distance to everywhere you wanna go and see. Juliet’s House is just 5 minutes walk from here and 30 minutes walk to the top of Piazza de San Pietro. It’s clean and in a quiet area.
Money-Saving Tip in Rome and Vatican
Rome and the Vatican are packed with places to see and history to marvel at. If you’re going to stay there for a few days only, it’s very impossible to squeeze and see everything you want to see. This Rome & Vatican Pass will let you see the places you’ve been dying to visit and known of from the pages of history books.
Hostel Alessandro Palace and Bar is your best bet in Rome. This hostel exceeded my expectations. The spacious rooms are secured with magnetic key cards and equipped with safe lockers for your valuables. You have to bring your own lock though. If you forgot to bring one, you can always buy one in their vending machine downstairs. They also have a bar that serves your alcohol needs. The staff are friendly and speaks English, too. The area has a lot of cafes, restaurants and grocery shops. The Roman Colosseum is 30 minutes and the Trevi Fountain is 20 minutes walk from here. But, most of all, it’s less than 5 minutes walk to the Rome Central Station. Trains to the airport and to another parts of Italy start and end in this station. You can book Hostel Alessandro Palace and Bar in Rome via HostelWorld and Booking.
Well, you know, solo travel is not for everyone. Should you decide to go on with a tour group, go with – Intrepid Travels. They have a wide variety of tours for all ages and different kinds of travelers, including solo, seniors, teenagers and family.