Discover Rome during a walking tour along the Tiber
Before I tell you more about this Tiber walking tour, let me tell you that the Tiber is NOT your ordinary river. Just like everything else in Rome this area is full of ancient stories. The city history spans over 28 centuries! According to the legend, the founders of Rome (twin brothers Romulus and Remus) were abandoned at birth and thrown into the Tiber in a cradle. Luckily, the brothers got rescued by a she-wolf (!), the Lupa Capitolina, who took care of them.
I told you this river is special? A walking tour along this legendary river seemed essential to me to learn more about Rome. Michel and I spent an evening exploring the river. And I can tell you it did not disappoint. Based on our experiences I decided to create my favorite walking route along the Tiber including some major highlights.
About this Tiber walking tour
This walking route the perfect getaway from the busy Roman pedestrian paths. You will discover Rome, its amazing ancient bridges, famous churches, and even an Island, from a different perspective.
The route is about 2.5 km and it will take you 30 minutes without any stops. But why would you not stop, relax and enjoy the tranquility? Il dolce far niente as the Italians say…The essence of doing nothing (besides walking!) and enjoying it.
The footpath is easy to walk, but some comfy shoes are recommended. I would suggest taking this route on a clear dry day (especially during a sunrise or sunset!).
Highlights during the tour
During the route you will pass the following highlights (pointed out with an orange camera symbol below on the map):
Start at the tour at Ponte Sublicio
This route starts at point A on the map. Take the stairs at the Ponte Sublicio that will lead you towards the Tiber river…
The first bridge (and many more to come!) you will come across is the Ponte Palatino. The bridge was built in place of the partially destroyed, 2200-year-old Ponte Emilio (or Ponte Rotto – meaning “Broken Bridge”).
From here you will be able to get a first good look at the Tiber. The river used to be called Albula because it was so white! We had a hard time deciding on its color, but it was definitely not white. Green? Yellowish? The current name of the river comes from Tiberinus, a king of Alba Longa who drowned in the river.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, Ponte Emilio and Tiber Island
The photo below has not been taken on this tour, but it gives you an overview of three highlights you will pass:
- The tower in the middle sticking out is the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. By the church, you will find the famous Mouth of Truth. According to legends, the sculpture would bite off the hand of those who lied! Curious to see the mask in action? Watch this clip from the Roman Holiday!
- On the left side, you see the Ponte Emilio. This old stone bridge once spanned the Tiber, connecting the Forum Boarium with Trastevere. But after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the bridge was damaged several times by floods. Today a single arch is all that remains…
- On the very left side, a tiny piece of Tiber Island is visible. This island is largely devoted to medicine. It has interesting historical sites such as Basilica di San Bartolomeo all’Isola, Castello Caetani, and Colonna di Pio I.
- Are you interested to visit Santa Maria in Cosmedin church? Take the stairs at Ponte Palatino. Cross the Ponte Palatino to see the church and the Mouth of Truth.
- Would you like to see more of Tiber Island? Take the next stairs at Ponte Cestio. Cross the Ponte Cestio to visit the island.
The Ponte Cestio is the first bridge that reached the left bank of Tiber Island (Ponte Fabricius connects the right bank). The bridge has a rich history of parts being demolished and rebuilt. BUT it’s central arch is made out of about two-thirds of the original material. And I can tell you that’s really old! It was built between 62 and 27 BC. A real piece of ancient Rome!
On the photo below you see Michel standing at the foot of the Ponte Cestio. Don’t worry this “path” is not part of the walking tour. The upcoming three photos will just give you a better idea of the surroundings.
By the way, I have to disappoint if you were thinking to go for a swim in the 6,5-meter deep river. The Tiber has been affected by pollution for centuries and the current is dangerous. So always be careful. You don’t want to fall into the water!
This photo was taken under the Ponte Cestio. You might recognize its arch from the previous photo! On the right side, you see Tiber Island. Ponte Garibaldi is peaking on the left side.
The stairs at Ponte Garibaldi will lead you to the beautiful and tasty (restaurant Da Enzo!) area Trastevere on one side. And on the other side, you will find the colorful areas Campo de’ Fiori and Jewish Ghetto.
In the past, the Tiber was a major “highway” for Mediterranean trade of oil, wine, and wheat. Lots of Roman mansions were lined at the riverside. Their gardens lead towards the Tiber to bring in fresh fruits and vegetables!
At this point, we returned to the normal/safe walking path. Along the river, there are lots of nice spots perfect for a break while enjoying a snack or a drink. Michel and I took some time to enjoy the silence and watched the busy Roman traffic passing by.
You might wonder if there are any ferries crossing the Tiber? Yes, there are! We didn’t try one, but different options are available at Rome Boat Experience.
It’s magical to watch a sunrise or sunset at the Tiber. We saw a sunset here and I could not stop taking photos of it! The sky becomes dreamy, the Tiber gets quiet, beautiful reflections appear in the water, birds fly around and the lighting is simply amazing.
This bridge, with its circular opening and four arches, stands out to me. The “eye” actually served to take the pressure off the center when flood waters rose to that level. The inhabitants of Rome found out they could measure the seriousness of a flood by watching the water stream through the eye. That meant they were getting in trouble!
I bet you already figured out the high walls help to protect the city from floods? Floods were REALLY common in ancient Rome. After the last serious flooding in 1870, the government decided it was enough and the high walls were built. Nowadays, the chances of a flood are pretty low. However, in rainy seasons the water level may exceed the height of the walls.
In the background of Ponte Sisto, you can spot the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is a gorgeous Renaissance church in Vatican City. Besides the graffiti, this place looks like the perfect Roman postcard!
St. Peter’s is the second largest church in the world. The Statue of Liberty could even fit inside of St Peter’s! There would even be space left since the statue is ‘only’ 93 meters high in comparison to the 137-meter church.
Interested to climb the church later on? That’s possible! Take the stairs at the upcoming Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia-Aosta. Climbing the church will take you 551 steps or 320 if you take the elevator. The view from up there is absolutely stunning overlooking the city and the St. Peter’s Square.
Ponte Giuseppe Mazzini
In the back of Ponte Sisto, Ponte Giuseppe Mazzini appears. Can you count how many bridges you have seen so far? Six! Which is not much if you consider Rome has about 900 (!) bridges…
Ponte Principe di Amedeo Savoia-Aosta
The photo below was not taken during the walking tour. I just love how it shows the Ponte Principe di Amedeo Savoia-Aosta (what a jawbreaker!) behind the gorgeous tree.
By the way did know that Popes have made the bridges across the Tiber their special concern? Back in ancient Rome, bridges were even considered sacred. The Latin word “pons” (meaning bridge) probably led to the word “pontifex” which translates to Pontiff (pope).
Finish the tour at Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II
This walking tour finishes at the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II. Here you will find steps that will take you back to the normal pedestrian path. So where to go next?
- Check out the world’s smallest sovereign state Vatican City. Visit (and climb!) St. Peter’s Basilica and Piazza San Pietro. Vatican City is known for its impressive masterpieces. I bet you have heard of Michelangelo-decorated Sistine Chapel? Spend the rest of your day admiring art!
- Visit the Castel Sant’Angelo. This incredible landmark is now a museum where you can find compelling paintings, sculpture, military memorabilia, and medieval firearms. This site is also known for its special 850-meter escape route which serves Popes in danger. The passage links the Vatican City to Castel Sant’Angelo.
Psssst, would you like to see more of Rome?
Then watch my Instagram Rome story for more beautiful videos of this ancient city, tasty food, gorgeous streets and buildings, and more!
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