Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Tiber Island, another hidden gem overlooked by Romans

Tiber Island, Isola Tiberina. is a very small island, according to some the smallest inhabited in the world. The island, long a little more than 300 meters wide and not more than 90 emerges from the Roman Tiber river and it is connected to the banks of the Tiber by two bridges: the Cestius bridge to Trastevere, with the central arch which dates from 46 BC. In the direction of the Jewish Ghetto is the Fabricio bridge, built in the 62 BC, called bridge Quattro Capi, for the Roman herms that adorn the edges. It has the shape of a ship, hence the legend that the island is located in the place of a boat submerged.

But there are many other legends about the origin of this small island: one takes us back in 509 BC when, the last king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, was ousted by the people and as a sign of hatred towards the tyrant the mob tossed into the Tiber a huge quantity of grain belonging to the king and enough to form an island.

But the best known legend is the one linked to the cult of Asclepius, god of medicine. This would explain the connection, which always existed, between the island and the activity of assistance to the sick. In 291 BC the city of Rome was hit by a terrible plague that claimed many victims and the priests, after having consulted the Sibylline books, sent a delegation to Epidaurus, a place of worship of Aesculapius.

The ambassadors returned to Rome on the ship carrying a snake, an animal sacred to the god. When he was closed to the Tiber Island, as reported by Ovid in Metamorphosis, the snake leaped and at the point where he took refuge it was erected a temple dedicated to Aesculapius and the island itself was made architecturally like a ship. On the ruins of the temple it was later built the church of St. Bartholomew on the Island, which preserves a Romanesque bell tower of the twelfth century and, down the aisle of the church, the temple columns.

The ancient medical traditions of that time did not die out with time. In the Middle Ages the island became a shelter for sick run by monks, and continue to this day. Today the island is home for the hospital "Fatebenefratelli" and the Rome's Israelite Hospital.

This lovely island is very beautiful and it is often overlooked by romans. There are nice cafes and a very good ice cream place. 

To reach Tiber Island from Penthouse Apartment Monteverde Rome take tram 8 and get off at Belli stop. Then walk for about 500 meters.

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