Isola Tiberina

I have often visited the Isola Tiberina when in Rome (figs. 1,2). This tiny island is located in the middle of the Tiber River (fig. 3), across the Trastevere rione and the old Jewish Ghetto, east of St. Peter Basilica and the Vatican. It is connected by the Fabricio Bridge (fig. 4), the oldest remaining roman Bridge built in 62 BC, and the Cestio Bridge. Its history is fascinating since the island was part of ancient Rome before Christianity, initially inhabited by fishermen, traders and poor people. It has been called the “smallest inhabited island in the world,” with its length being about three football fields! As the Jewish Ghetto developed just across the Tiber, the island became a center of medical care towards the old and indigent populations, often including the locals and ultimately with the construction of the Fatebenefratelli and of the Jewish Hospitals (fig. 5) on its grounds. Both hospitals are still functioning, after more than 400 years, leading to constant traffic and human presence throughout the island. The Isola Tiberina is best visited on foot or bicycle (fig. 6). Both connecting bridges are often filled with street vendors (fig. 7), as is often the case in Rome, however it is also a very convenient way to cross the town into Trastevere, now a very trendy area filled with small trattorias, open markets and artisanal shops. On the main Square, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, we find the basilica named after the same Saint as well as the entrances to both the hospitals. A second church, an old noble palace and a few shops and small restaurants are there as well (fig. 8); the perfect stop for a gelato or a slice of pizza as one wanders throughout the city! Summertime brings a wonderful and well-established movie festival to this unique roman spot, which becomes the “Isola del Cinema” (fig. 9), with a long series of classic (fig. 10) and new movies being projected in the evening at the al fresco venue. As we, again, cross the millennial Fabricio Bridge towards Piazza Navona (fig. 11), we get one last glance at the Tiber River flowing slowly, often with barges and other tourist boats coming and going, and the Cupolone of St. Pietro (fig. 12) always present at a distance. Arrivederci Roma!

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