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Rome’s Oldest Bridge

Rome's oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s historic monuments are so plentiful that it’s hard to take it all in during one trip. There’s just so much to see, and everywhere you look there’s something ancient, so it’s easy to see why you might overlook Rome’s oldest bridge – a relic from ancient Rome.

The Pons Fabricius, as it was known in ancient Rome, is the oldest Roman bridge in the city. It was built in 62 BCE, and it still stands in its original location and its original state. It spans only half the Tiber River, however, so you’d have to set out to find it in order to walk across it.

The bridge was built in 62 BCE on the site of a wooden bridge which had been destroyed in a fire. The man in the Roman goverment who was responsible for the construction of roads and bridges was named Fabricius, and so the bridge took his name. It has been in continuous use since it opened, and you can still walk on the bridge today.

Rome's oldest bridge

Rome’s oldest bridge

It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber to Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Another Roman bridge connects Tiber Island with the western side of the city. Tiber Island is historically considered a place of medicine, so would have attracted many people seeking guidance and healing. Many of those people would have walked across the Pons Fabricius in order to get to the island. Today, there is still an operational hospital on the island, and the island is the location for a popular summer film festival.

In Italian, the bridge is known as the Ponte Fabricio or the Ponte dei Quattro Capi. The former refers to its Latin name, while the latter – “quattro capi” means “four heads” – refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. Those statues weren’t on the original bridge, but were moved there in the 14th century.

Learn more about the fascinating back story of this city during a historical tour of Rome

- Jessica Spiegel

Rome’s Oldest Bridge from Viator Rome



Rome’s Oldest Bridge

Rome's oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s historic monuments are so plentiful that it’s hard to take it all in during one trip. There’s just so much to see, and everywhere you look there’s something ancient, so it’s easy to see why you might overlook Rome’s oldest bridge – a relic from ancient Rome.

The Pons Fabricius, as it was known in ancient Rome, is the oldest Roman bridge in the city. It was built in 62 BCE, and it still stands in its original location and its original state. It spans only half the Tiber River, however, so you’d have to set out to find it in order to walk across it.

The bridge was built in 62 BCE on the site of a wooden bridge which had been destroyed in a fire. The man in the Roman goverment who was responsible for the construction of roads and bridges was named Fabricius, and so the bridge took his name. It has been in continuous use since it opened, and you can still walk on the bridge today.

Rome's oldest bridge

Rome’s oldest bridge

It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber to Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Another Roman bridge connects Tiber Island with the western side of the city. Tiber Island is historically considered a place of medicine, so would have attracted many people seeking guidance and healing. Many of those people would have walked across the Pons Fabricius in order to get to the island. Today, there is still an operational hospital on the island, and the island is the location for a popular summer film festival.

In Italian, the bridge is known as the Ponte Fabricio or the Ponte dei Quattro Capi. The former refers to its Latin name, while the latter – “quattro capi” means “four heads” – refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. Those statues weren’t on the original bridge, but were moved there in the 14th century.

Learn more about the fascinating back story of this city during a historical tour of Rome

-Jessica Spiegel

Rome’s Oldest Bridge from Viator Rome



Rome’s Oldest Bridge

Rome's oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s oldest bridge, the Pons Fabricius

Rome’s historic monuments are so plentiful that it’s hard to take it all in during one trip. There’s just so much to see, and everywhere you look there’s something ancient, so it’s easy to see why you might overlook Rome’s oldest bridge – a relic from ancient Rome.

The Pons Fabricius, as it was known in ancient Rome, is the oldest Roman bridge in the city. It was built in 62 BCE, and it still stands in its original location and its original state. It spans only half the Tiber River, however, so you’d have to set out to find it in order to walk across it.

The bridge was built in 62 BCE on the site of a wooden bridge which had been destroyed in a fire. The man in the Roman goverment who was responsible for the construction of roads and bridges was named Fabricius, and so the bridge took his name. It has been in continuous use since it opened, and you can still walk on the bridge today.

Rome's oldest bridge

Rome’s oldest bridge

It stretches from the eastern side of the Tiber to Tiber Island in the middle of the river. Another Roman bridge connects Tiber Island with the western side of the city. Tiber Island is historically considered a place of medicine, so would have attracted many people seeking guidance and healing. Many of those people would have walked across the Pons Fabricius in order to get to the island. Today, there is still an operational hospital on the island, and the island is the location for a popular summer film festival.

In Italian, the bridge is known as the Ponte Fabricio or the Ponte dei Quattro Capi. The former refers to its Latin name, while the latter – “quattro capi” means “four heads” – refers to two pillars that each depict the two-faced Roman god Janus. Those statues weren’t on the original bridge, but were moved there in the 14th century.

Learn more about the fascinating back story of this city during a historical tour of Rome

-Jessica Spiegel

Rome’s Oldest Bridge from Viator Rome



Parco degli Acquedotti in Rome

Parco degli Acquedotti

Parco degli Acquedotti

In Rome, there are multiple public parks and piazzas occupying the sites of former Roman structures. One of the largest is the Parco degli Acquedotti, which also showcases ancient Roman engineering prowess.

The ancient Roman empire was famous for its aqueducts – they moved water over seemingly impossible distances, managing to keep it moving steadily toward cities and population centers. Many of those ancient aqueducts still stand, and one is included in the Parco degli Acquedotti just outside Rome. Another more modern aqueduct is also in the park, which covers more than 37 acres. It’s part of the Appian Way Regional Park.

The two aqueducts in the park are the Aqua Claudia and Aqua Felix. Aqua Claudia was started in the 1st century by the infamous Emperor Caligula, and finished by his successor Claudius, for whom the aqueduct is named. The water source was more than 40 miles from Rome, and much of the aqueduct was underground, but the visible structure in the Parco degli Acquedotti is the typical series of arches with the water channel sitting high above ground level. Aqua Felix was the first relatively modern aqueduct in Rome, built in the late 1500s by Pope Sixtus V. The aqueduct is 15 miles long, much of which is also underground. Another ancient Roman ruin in the park is the so-called Villa delle Vignacce, the remains of a 2nd century villa about which little is known.

Fans of Fellini may recognize the Aqua Claudia from “La Dolce Vita,” and the park’s proximity to Rome’s film studio (Cinecitta) means it’s been the setting for many an Italian movie. The park is a few miles outside Rome’s city center, and you can get there on the Metro, using the Subaugusta stop. Several bus lines also will get you to the park. The entrance is on via Lemonia. You can rent a bike in Rome to ride throughout the Appian Way Regional Park, either in the city center or inside the park, or simply explore on foot.

- Jessica Spiegel

Parco degli Acquedotti in Rome from Viator Rome



Ancient Egyptian Obelisks in Rome

Rome has plenty of ancient Roman monuments to see, but the ancient Romans were also good plunderers. Evidence of their spoils of war can be found in piazzas all over the city – specifically, the 13 ancient Egyptian obelisks that stand proudly throughout Rome.

All of the obelisks that stand in Rome today are in a different location than they originally occupied. Many had been deconstructed – turning standing obelisks into “ruins” – and were put back together in the 16th century under the direction of Pope Sixtus V, when they were then moved to their current locations. At that time, many also received new artistic elements, from new inscriptions to crosses at their tips, so that they could stand in front of churches without being considered unholy. Of the obelisks listed below, five were actually commissioned by Romans and made in Egypt, rather than taken after a battle. Here is a list of where you’ll find each obelisk today. You’ll see many of them on a tour of Rome’s squares and fountains or a Rome historical tour.

Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano

Obelisk at St. John Lateran

Obelisk at St. John Lateran. Creative commons photo by Jan via Flickr.

The obelisk near the Lateran Palace is the tallest in Rome, standing more than 105 feet tall (without the base). It was built in Egypt in the 15th century B.C.E., carried to Rome in 357 A.D. and placed in the Circus Maximus, then moved to its current home in 1588. The Marcus Aurelius statue on this site was then moved to the piazza on the Capitoline Hill. This obelisk has well-preserved Egyptian hieroglyphs, as well as 16th century decorations on its tip.

St. Peter’s Square

Obelisk in St. Peter's Square

Obelisk in St. Peter’s Square

The obelisk in the center of St. Peter’s Square was brought to Rome in the 1st century B.C.E. and originally placed in the Circus of Caligula (on the site of St. Peter’s Basilica today). It was moved to its current location in 1586, the first obelisk in Rome to be reconstructed and relocated as part of a city-wide project. There are no hieroglyphs on this obelisk, and its top is decorated with a cross and the symbols of Pope Sixtus V.

Piazza del Popolo

Obelisk at Piazza del Popolo

Obelisk at Piazza del Popolo

The obelisk marking the center of the Piazza del Popolo was made in Egypt in the 13th century B.C.E. for Ramesses the Great, and was brought to Rome in 10 B.C.E. Originally in the Circus Maximus, the obelisk was reconstructed in 1589 and moved to the Piazza del Popolo. The top received Pope Sixtus’ symbols and a cross, and the lions at its base were added in the early 19th century.

Trinità dei Monti

Obelisk at the top of the Spanish Steps

Obelisk at the top of the Spanish Steps

This obelisk, commissioned by Emperor Aurelian in the 3rd century A.D., stands at the top of the Spanish Steps in front of the Church of Saints Trinità dei Monti. It was a copy of the obelisk that now stands in the Piazza del Popolo, and was moved to its current location in 1789 by Pope Pius VI.

Piazza Navona

Obelisk in Piazza Navona

Obelisk in Piazza Navona

This obelisk was commissioned in the 1st century A.D. by Emperor Domitian and placed at the Temple of Serapis. It was later moved to the Circus of Maxentius, and moved again to its current home in 1651. At that time, Bernini used it as the centerpiece of his iconic “Four Rivers Fountain.” The top is decorated with the symbol of then-Pope Innocent X.

Piazza della Rotonda

Obelisk at the Pantheon

Obelisk at the Pantheon. Creative commons photo by Ed Uthman via Flickr.

The obelisk in front of the Pantheon was originally one of a pair at the Temple Ra in Heliopolis (the other now stands at Villa Celimontana). It was brought to Rome in the 1st century A.D. and stood at the Temple of Isis. It was moved to its current spot in the center of the existing fountain in 1711 by Pope Clement XI, whose symbols decorate the top.

Piazza di Montecitorio

Obelisk in Piazza di Montecitorio

Obelisk in Piazza di Montecitorio. Creative commons photo by teldridge+keldridge via Flickr.

This obelisk came from Egypt in 10 B.C.E. along with the obelisk that now stands in the Piazza del Popolo. It once stood in the Campus Martius as the gnomon of a sundial, and still has a gnomon and ball on its top – it still functions as a sundial. It was moved to its current location in 1748 by Pope Pius VI.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Obelisk at Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Obelisk at Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Creative commons photo by Nick Bramhall via Flickr.

Around the corner from the Pantheon is this obelisk, which stands on the back of an elephant sculpted by Bernini. The obelisk was built in the 6th century B.C.E. and brought to Rome in the 3rd century to be placed in the Temple of Isis. It was moved to its current location in 1667 by Pope Alexander VII, whose symbols decorate both the base and the top.

Piazza del Quirinale

Obelisk at the Quirinal Palace

Obelisk at the Quirinal Palace

This obelisk was commissioned by Emperor Augustus in the 1st century B.C.E. to stand at his family mausoleum. It was moved to its current location in front of the presidential palace in 1786 by Pope Pius VI. The base is decorated with sculptures of Castor and Pollux, as well as a fountain.

Piazza dell’Esquilino

Obelisk at Santa Maria Maggiore

Obelisk at Santa Maria Maggiore. Creative commons photo by Justin Ennis via Flickr.

This obelisk was commissioned by Emperor Augustus in the 1st century B.C.E. to stand at his family mausoleum, along with the obelisk now in front of the Quirinal Palace. It was moved to its current home behind the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in 1587 by Pope Sixtus V, whose symbols adorn the top.

Baths of Diocletian

This obelisk was originally erected for Ramesses the Great in the 13th century B.C.E., and brought to Rome in the 1st century A.D. It was moved to the front of Termini Station in the 1880s, but in 1924 it was moved again to its current home in the Baths of Diocletian.

Pincian Hill

Obelisk on Pincio Hill

Obelisk on Pincio Hill. Creative commons photo by jbarrelros via Flickr.

This obelisk was commissioned by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D. to serve as a memorial to a young man who drowned in the Nile after saving the emperor’s wife. It originally stood at his tomb in Tivoli, and was moved three times between the 16th and 19th centuries. It eventually was moved to its current location on the Pincian Hill in 1822 by Pope Pius VII.

Villa Celimontana

The smallest obelisk on the list is at the Villa Celimontana, in a public park near the Colosseum. This was once part of a pair with the obelisk that now stands in front of the Pantheon, although this one has been shortened quite a bit from its original height. It was created for Ramesses the Great in the 13th century B.C.E., brought to Rome in the 1st century A.D., and moved to its current home in the 16th century.

- Jessica Spiegel

Ancient Egyptian Obelisks in Rome from Viator Rome



Walking the Appian Way in Rome

Part of the ancient Appian Way near Rome

Part of the ancient Appian Way near Rome

You’ve probably heard the phrase “all roads lead to Rome,” and thought that it was more than a little bit of hyperbole. At one time, however, most roads did actually lead to what was then the center of Western civilization. Today, you can still walk on one of those roads – the famous Appian Way.

The ancient Appian Way, called the Via Appia in Italian, was built in the 4th century B.C.E. and stretched from Rome to Brindisi in present-day Puglia. By the 18th century, the ancient road had long been abandoned, with a parallel road – the “new Appian Way” – built in the 1780s. The old road, now called the “Via Antica Appia” in Italian, or “old Appian Way,” was restored roughly when the new road was being built.

Believe it or not, much of the old Appian Way is a functioning road used by modern cars. There are parts near Rome that get much less motorized traffic, however, which are popular with Romans and visitors alike as a place to go cycling or walking. There are also some big Rome attractions along the old Appian Way, so you can combine walking the Appian Way with some other sightseeing along your route.

There are buses that connect with different parts of the old Appian Way (you can catch them in Rome’s city center) near the ancient Roman catacombs. Within the first four miles of the ancient road, there are two different catacombs as well as an ancient tomb that is extremely well-preserved. Sections of the old Appian Way are designated car-free on Sundays, but you can visit on any day of the week. For more historical context about the importance of the road, as well as practical guidance navigating to the best parts of the ancient road to visit, you can book a spot on a guided tour of the Appian Way in Rome, either a walking tour or a bike tour.

- Jessica Spiegel

Walking the Appian Way in Rome from Viator Rome



New Year’s Eve Events in Rome

New Year's Eve fireworks in Rome

Fireworks at the Colosseum. Photo courtesy of neigesdantan via Flickr.

Rome is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy year-round, and with good reason. On New Year’s Eve, the city gets even more popular, with Italians from other parts of Italy heading to the capital for the festivities. If you’ll be in Rome over New Year’s Eve, there are a few events going on that you can attend (most of them completely free of charge), but keep in mind that hotels in the historic center get booked quickly over the holidays – so don’t delay in making your own arrangements for accommodation.

There are free concerts in a few places around Rome on New Year’s Eve, most of which are followed by a fireworks display at midnight. The most popular spot for music, dancing, and fireworks is the Piazza del Popolo. Performances usually get underway at about 10pm, and the whole piazza is full of Romans and visitors celebrating the end of another year together. There’s another public and free concert near the Piazza Venezia and the Roman Forum on the Via dei Fori Imperiali. This one also starts around 10pm and usually has at least one big Italian rockstar on the roster as the headlining act. Both of these venues draw large crowds, so if you’re keen on being close to the stage you’ll need to arrive early. If not, get there at any time and just enjoy the festive atmosphere. And remember, Rome in December can be quite chilly – so prepare to dress warmly.

New Year’s Eve events in Rome include a free classical concert at the Piazza del Quirinale, which the Italian President typically attends (the Quirinale is the Italian President’s official residence), and there’s often a New Year’s Eve theatrical performance at the Auditorium Conciliazione. There are also plenty of night clubs in Rome that turn up the music and light shows on New Year’s Eve. Most of these require that you buy tickets in advance, so be sure to find out before December 31st.

The concerts in the city center all feature a fireworks display at midnight – Italians adore their fireworks – so even if you’re not in the throngs of the concertgoers you can still get a look at fireworks if you’ve got a good vantage point overlooking the city. Of course, given the Italian love of fireworks, there are also plenty of explosives being set off by families celebrating on their own streets – so be alert when you’re walking around.

If you’re in Rome with children over New Year’s Eve, plan to spend time at Oasi Park, an amusement park southeast of the city center. Starting in the afternoon, there is music and dancing for the kids, along with the playground of a huge amusement park. The fireworks display at the park goes off early, usually around 6:30pm, so parents can get children into bed at a reasonable hour (and, maybe, catch the midnight fireworks back in Rome). You’ll need a car to get to Oasi Park.

On New Year’s Day there’s a parade that starts in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square and ends at the Castel Sant’Angelo, and if you’re traveling with kids you can head back over to the Piazza del Popolo for New Year’s Day kid-friendly fun, with all sorts of circus-type entertainment just for the little ones.

You can also consider a Rome walking tour on New Year’s Day to give yourself something to do when many attractions and shops are likely to be closed.

- Jessica Spiegel

New Year’s Eve Events in Rome from Viator Rome



How to see the Pope in Rome

Pope Benedict - Papal Audience in Rome

Located within the city of Rome is a separate city state, the Vatican. The head of this state is the Pope. Many people make the pilgrimage to the Vatican every year – as they have done for centuries – to see the Pope. Here are the best ways to do this:

Audiences
The Pope holds a General Audience with the public on Wednesdays at 10.30am. This is held in St Peter’s Square except in winter when it is in Paul VI Hall, just to the left of St Peter’s Square. They are free but you must have a ticket which you’ll need to organize in advance. In the days leading up to a Wednesday audience you can obtain tickets from the Swiss Guard by going to the Bronze Doors of the Apostolic Palace. For large groups or to book further in advance contact: Santa Susanna Church, the American Catholic Church in Rome.

Blessing
Sunday at noon is when the Pope prays the Angelus standing at the second window from the right in the Apostolic Palace. He also gives the crowd a blessing. You do not need tickets for this and it is free to attend but it does get crowded. During summer (July and August), the Pope is often not at the Vatican so check beforehand whether he is in residence to give the blessing or not.

If the Pope is at his summer residence in Castelgandolfo he will say the prayer there. Again tickets are not required but space is much more limited than at the Vatican. Castelgandolfo is 16 miles from Rome.

Mass
The Pope says special masses during Christmas and Easter each year at various locations around Rome.

During Holy Week there is a Papal Mass held on Palm Sunday in St Peter’s Square. On Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday the Pope says mass in the Vatican Basilica. He also follows the Way of the Cross to the Coliseum on Palm Sunday.

Each month there is at least one Papal Mass in the Vatican Basilica. The program for 2012 can be found here.

-Philippa B.

Planning a Trip? Browse Viator’s Rome tours and things to do, Rome attractions, and Rome travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Rome for a customized tour!

How to see the Pope in Rome from Rome Things To Do



Festa di Noantri

Tiber River in Rome

A genuine remnant of Rome as it once was, this annual festival is the time the residents of Trastavere celebrate their district’s humble working-class roots. Festa di Noantri translates as Our Festival.

Running from mid to late July each year (15-30 July, 2012), this is two weeks of arts events and street festivals, and of course eating and drinking in the streets and piazzas. Trastavere is an ancient district across the Tiber River from the main historic center of Rome, which was traditionally home to sailors and fishermen and the Jewish community. These days its narrow cobbled streets retain their medieval character and great sense of community while its bars and restaurants grow in popularity with Romans and tourists alike.

The Festa de Noantri began in 1927 but can trace its routes back to 1535 when a fisherman caught in his nets a statue of the Virgin Mary in the mouth of the Tiber River after a bad storm. This Madonna Fiumarola (Madonna of the River) was donated to the Carmelite nuns of San Crisogono (in Piazza Sonnino) in Trastavere and became the patron saint of the district. This statue is now in the Church of St Agatha (9 Largo San Giovanni de Matha).

Another statue created in the 20th century takes pride of place in the Festa de Noantri these days, the Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Her feast day is July 16th and each year, on the Saturday following this date, a grand parade takes place in Trastavere. In 2012, this will be on Saturday July 21st. The statue of the Virgin is carried with great pageantry from Saint Agatha to the church of San Crisogono where it stays for 8 days before being carried back to Saint Agatha’s.

Throughout the two weeks, life in Trastavere takes to the streets in celebration with street stalls, open air dining and dancing, performances and arts. On the final night of the festival there are fireworks over the River Tiber.

-Philippa B.

Planning a Trip? Browse Viator’s Rome tours and things to do, Rome attractions, and Rome travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Rome for a customized tour!

Festa di Noantri from Rome Things To Do



Roman Summer Festival – Estate Romana

Villa Doria Pamphili - Venue for Estate Romana

Summer in Rome is one long series of things to do.

From 16 June until 28 September 2012, the 35th Estate Romana brings the Eternal City alive.

From classical music to jazz to rock concerts, to movies and art exhibitions and theater, dance, writers reading etc, there’ll be something to excite everyone. There’s also a big children’s program; last year this included a huge science and technology fair with interactive games – you get the picture.

This creative joy is not confined to the inner city but happens everywhere, right out into the suburbs and beyond. And it’s not only found in the expected places like renowned theaters and music venues such as Ippodromo delle Capenell and Villa Celimontan for concerts and Villa Doria Pamphili and Foro di Augusto for theater, but events are also held in parks, hospitals, nursing homes, even prisons. There will be a film screen set up on the River Tiber Island along with popup bars and stalls. This is truly a festival which includes everyone.

This year’s Estate Romana program has yet to be announced but when it is you can find all the information on what’s on, where, when and how to book at: http://en.estateromana.comune.roma.it/.

-Philippa B.

Planning a Trip? Browse Viator’s Rome tours and things to do, Rome attractions, and Rome travel recommendations. Or book a private tour guide in Rome for a customized tour!

The Estate Romana (Roman Summer) Festival from Rome Things To Do