Mirabilia Urbis: Rome Walking Tours

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Flumen Tiberis: The Tiber River is yours to discover!

This tour aims at resuscitating the Tiber’s self-esteem.  After all, it saved Romulus and Remus (Rome’s founders), nurtured Rome in the first years of its existence, was the driving force behind Rome's commercial success, and was a constant, intimate presence in the life of Rome's inhabitants for hundreds of years—even after the decline of the Rome Empire.

 The connection between Rome and its river was lost in the modern era.  The Muraglioni, the tall stone embankments that flank it, are in part to blame.  They were built in the early 1900s to prevent flooding, which seemed like a good idea at the time... Italy had just been united and Rome, the new country’s capital, could not continue being a victim of the river's regular watery pranks.  The embankments, however, separated the city from its former life support system.

 We’ll go back in time, long before the embankments were built, to discover the original role of the Tiber.  We’ll explore the long relationship between the city and the river; how generations worked next to it and on it, transported the goods of an empire, relaxed on its shores, and in later eras, ferried pilgrims eager to visit churches from one bank to another…

Starting on Tiber Island, we discuss several bridges, which are over two thousand years old and in perfect condition.  From the Island, we can glimpse the Cloaca Maxima--the main drain of the ancient Roman sewer system that ran under a large portion of the city, the Roman Forum included.  Strolling through scenic Trastevere, we’ll discuss place names and roads (like Vicolo della Renella and Via Arenula), which have to do with the River.  (Actually, both Renella and Arenula come from “arena,” which meant “sand” and referred to the sandy approaches where locals went to bath or wash clothes.)   We’ll cross Ponte Sisto once we’ve discussed the bustling ancient harbors that hugged the banks of the Tiber – not to mention the occupational hazards of some of the workers!  Continuing upstream (to avoid the heavy traffic of the Lungotevere), we’ll meander along the quiet Via Giulia, which was the “in” place to live in the 1500s.  (In fact, the artist Raphael owned property there, rubbing elbows with the most chic aristocratic families of his time…)  We’ll examine a curious flood marker from the Middle Ages and then cross Ponte Sant'Angelo -- the bridge that Hadrian ordered built in 130 A.D. to connect his Mausoleum with the central Rome.

 

Energetic visitors will opt to continue with Castel Sant'Angelo. The Angel Castle, which was built over the centuries but completed mostly as one sees it today in the 1500s, is built on top of the Emperor Hadrian's massive Mausoleum. The history and symbolism of the Mausoleum is fascinating, while the artwork in the Castle is top-notch. Don't forget the views from the upper deck, which are not as good, but nearly rival those of Saint Peter's Dome!

 

Entrance fees: there are none, with the exception of Castel Sant'Angelo if visitors would like to add it to the itinerary.


Note: Bring a camera because this itinerary will introduce you to some of Rome's most lovely side streets.