One of the many things ancient Romans were famous for was the constructions of bridges, many of which are still standing today, not only in the Italian capital but in other cities as well.
The many bridges in Rome, however, don’t only date to the ancient Rome period. In fact, there are many beautiful old and newer bridges in Rome, and a walk along the river will show you the most important ones. With all its bridges, the 406 km (252 miles) long Tiber River, which crosses the city from north to south, certainly is one of the most beautiful sights in the city. More than that, the river has had an essential role in the city’s birth and development, providing water to the city and acting as a commercial way between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the city, via its former harbor town Ostia.
But there’s more! One of the most famous Roman myths says that the founders of the city – Romolus and Remus – were actually abandoned on a basket that had been placed on the river, from which they were saved to be then cared for by the famous she-wolf.
A walk across the historic center will reveal the most famous bridges in Rome, which conveniently link the most famous landmarks in town. But if you get out of the main tourist path and head a bit outside the center, you will find more modern bridges that are totally worth seeing!
Curious to discover the nicest bridges in Rome? Continue reading, as I will take you on a wonderful – virtual – walk. Make sure to take notes for when you finally visit!
Check out my post The Most Useful Tips For Visiting Rome.
The Most Beautiful Bridges In Rome
Sant’Angelo Bridge (Pons Aelius)
Ponte Sant’Angelo is probably the most famous of all the bridges in Rome. Formerly (in the Ancient Roman era) known as Pons Aelius, it was originally built in 134 AD under the orders of Roman Emperor Hadrian. The idea was to create a crossing over the Tiber specifically for his newly constructed mausoleum, or what is now better known as the Castel Sant’Angelo.
Three of the bridge’s five arches are original, while much of the bridge has been renovated through the ages. Constructed from travertine, Ponte Sant’Angelo is solely for the use of pedestrians.
Most famous of all the bridge’s features are its namesake angels. In 1666, Pope Clement IX ordered 10 statues of angels to be placed along the bridge. Two of these are the work of Bernini (now replicas, with the originals now in the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte) while the rest are by Bernini’s students. The angels are depicted as holding the instruments of the Passion.
There’s also a gruesome history to Ponte Sant’Angelo: from the 16th century onwards, the bridge was used to display the bodies of criminals executed in the nearby Piazza di Ponte.
There has been a bridge on this site since 206 BC, but this current iteration dates to 109 BC. The Ponte Milvio was strategically important during the Roman Republic and the later Empire. It was here in 312 AD that Constantine won the pivotal Battle of the Milvian Bridge against his rival Maxentius, which eventually led to him becoming Roman Emperor.
The middle ages saw the bridge’s renovation by a monk named Acuzio, and then again in 1429 under Pope Martin V, who commissioned an architect to repair the damaged stone bridge. More modifications and repairs occurred throughout the 18th and 19th century.
Though its history dates back over 2,000 years, modern times have brought some modern issues to the bridge – notably in the form of “love locks” that are attached to the bridge’s lamp posts by couples, as inspired by the book “I Want You” by author Federico Moccia. One lamp post got so heavy with locks that it collapsed. The practice is now banned, but the trend has since spread across Europe and the rest of the world.
Ponte della Musica
One of the more modern bridges in Rome, the Ponte della Musica – literally “Music Bridge” – is a contemporary construction built to connect the Parco della Musica and the Olympic Stadium. It opened in 2011 and is dedicated to the memory of Italian composer, conductor, and pianist, Armando Trovajoli.
The Ponte della Musica may look like it’s freshly from the modern day, but its construction was actually foreseen in the city’s “Master Plan” of 1929. Though it was originally intended for pedestrian use only, the bridge has since allowed cyclists and eco-transport to cross the Tiber here.
The design of the bridge was the result of an international competition held in 2000, with London studio Buro Happold and Powell-Williams Architects creating this winning entry.
In the Centro Storico – connecting Via dei Pettinari to Piazza Trilussa, in Trastevere – you’ll find Ponte Sisto. Commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV, the bridge was built between 1473 and 1479, to accommodate the large numbers of pilgrims on their way to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. Previously, the only bridge crossing the Tiber to the basilica was Ponte Sant’Angelo, which was becoming dangerously overcrowded.
But it wasn’t the first bridge to be located on the site. Its predecessor was the ancient Pons Aurelius, which was destroyed at the beginning of the middle ages. The architect for the project was Baccio Pontelli, who cleverly reused the foundations of the original bridge. Pontelli’s other claim to fame is that he designed the Sistine Chapel and – like the chapel – the bridge was named in honor of the Pope who commissioned it.
This elegant bridge is particularly attractive at night, when it is illuminated, but it’s perhaps most popular at sunset, when views from the bridge are most sought after.
Also known as the Pons Fabricius, the Ponte Fabricio is actually the oldest bridge in Rome. It was built in 62 BC and still exists in its original form to this day. The bridge was intended to connect Campus Martius on the east side of the Tiber to Tiber Island, with Pons Cestius leading to the island on the west side.
The Ponte Fabricio runs for a length of 62 meters and is made up of two arches supported by a central pillar. The exterior is made of bricks and travertine, while the core is made of tuff – a type of rock made of compacted volcanic ash.
The bridge was commissioned by Lucius Fabricius, who was a curator of ancient Roman roads, and it has – rather incredibly – been in continuous use ever since. Its 2,000 years of history is a testament to the engineering skills of the ancient Romans. And what better way to pay homage to this ancient bridge than to simply walk across it?
Ponte Cestio (l’Isola Tiberina)
This is the other bridge that leads to Tiber Island: Ponte Cestio. Also called Pons Cestius, this bridge was originally constructed between 62 and 27 BC. Recognise the name? The bridge was built by the same family who was brought to fame by Gaius Cestius Epulo, whose tomb can still be found in Rome – namely, that would be the Pyramid of Cestius – one of Rome’s best hidden gems.
In the 4th century, the original Pons Cestius was replaced, rebuilt using tuff, peperino marble, and travertine. Work and restoration of the bridge carried on through the centuries, to the extent that only a third of the ancient 4th-century bridge remains.
That doesn’t make it any less photogenic, however. The present-day three-arched bridge is simple but charming, with water reflecting the architecture and the island on one side; it makes for the perfect addition to the Rome cityscape.
Ponte Emilio (Ponte Rotto)
Known as Pons Aemelius, and today also referred to as Ponte Rotto (“The Ruined Bridge”), this could be just about the most picturesque bridge in Rome – even though not much of the original bridge remains.
This romantic ruin was originally built in the 2nd century BC, although a wooden version was found to have preceded it. It was completed in 151 BC, and was a working crossing of the River Tiber for several hundred years.
In the middle ages, following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the stone bridge – the oldest of its kind in Rome – sadly received a lot of damage due to flooding. This resulted in numerous rebuilding projects under various Popes; you can still see their names engraved in the bridge today.
Finally, the bridge was left abandoned after yet more floods washed much of it away in 1598. For many years, it was simply used as a fishing pier.
In 1853, Pope Pius X ordered the remaining parts of the bridge to be connected to the mainland via an iron footbridge. But instead of helping the stone relic, the metalwork actually ended up further weakening the already damaged bridge. Much of the remaining bridge was demolished in 1887 to make way for the Ponte Palatino, resulting in the one-arched ruined bridge that stands to this day.
Linking up the Roman neighborhoods of Lungotevere Aventino to Lungotevere Ripa, this late 19th-century bridge is very different to others in Rome. Instead of marble and neoclassicism, the Ponte Palatino – also known as the Ponte Inglese (“English Bridge”) – is distinctively industrial in style.
It was designed by Angelo Vescovali and constructed between 1886 and 1890, this was the bridge that took the place of the 2,000-year-old Pons Aemlius (and now makes for a good place to snap a photo of the old bridge, too).
The Ponte Palatino is named after the Palatine Hill, which the bridge connects. And if you’re wondering about the “English” connection, it’s due to the left-hand traffic flow – same as in the UK – that applies on the bridge.
Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II
Often cited as Rome’s most stately bridge, the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II was constructed in 1886 by architect Ennio de Rossi (though it wasn’t officially inaugurated until 1911). It spans the River Tiber, connecting Vatican City with the Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill via the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Made up of three large arches that span a distance of 108 metres, it is ornately decorated with bronze statues of the Roman goddess Victoria – the personification of victory. More scenes across the bridge depict various important moments in Italy’s struggle for unification. The bridge is named for the first king of a united Italy (since the 6th century), Vittorio Emanuele II. The bridge provides a beautiful spot to soak up views of the Ponte Sant’Angelo and the adjacent Castel Sant’Angelo.
Ponte Settimia Spizzichino
Inaugurated in 2012, the Ponte Settimia Spizzichino is a white steel bridge that is unique among the bridges in Rome in that it doesn’t cross over the River Tiber – instead, this road bridge passes over a railway line. It makes up part of the Ostiense ring road.
The bridge is named in honor of Settimia Spizzichino, who was one of the only survivors of the Jewish Ghetto of Rome who were deported to Auschwitz during World War II.
The enormous lattice structure, curving up over the road, was produced using 3D modelling software techniques. It took three years to build and cost 15.4 million Euros. Particularly important to the design was the lighting situation: this means that, in the evenings, Ponte Settimia Spizzichino is lit up with LED lights that change color.
In the 1930s, traffic coming into Rome from the north had exceeded what the ancient Ponte Milvio could handle, and so the idea for Ponte Flaminio was conceived. It was designed by Armando Brasini, and construction began under Mussolini in 1938, but was halted in 1943 during World War II.
Also made out of Roman travertine, with its characteristic shades of white, the five arches of the bridge shadow those of the neighboring Ponte Milvio.
The work that had already been carried out received damage during the war, and it wasn’t until 1947 that work resumed. It was finally completed in 1951. Today the Ponte Familino connects the Parioli district to Corso di Francia, and marks the first large bridge to cross the Tiber in the north of Rome.
Though for much of its existence the pretty Ponte Nomentano has sat outside the official boundaries of Rome, today this ancient bridge is part and parcel of the Italian capital. Spanning 190 feet across the River Aniene – a tributary of the Tiber – it was for many years surrounded by the wide open countryside, and provided a river crossing for the ancient Via Nomentana.
The Ponte Nomentano marked the northern approach to the city, and still maintains its original central arch, which dates back to the end of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC. Interestingly, there’s a carving on this central arch depicting a club and a cow’s head, which many think signifies the river crossing being used for cattle, and connected to the cult of Hercules.
The two smaller arches on either side were added during the reign of Pope Innocent X in the 17th century, while the impressive defensive tower was built in the middle ages. During its history the bridge is believed to have been damaged twice: once during the Gothic wars in 547 AD, and again in 1849 by the French Army in an attempt to stop Garibaldi.
The countryside location of this ancient bridge has inspired artists through the centuries, and was a popular destination for young artists and writers on the Grand Tour (17th to 19th centuries).