TIBER ISLAND – Isola Tiberina
At the curve of the Tiber, a kilometre or so below St Peter’s Basilica and the Varican is Tiber Island, a miniature of Paris’ Ile de la Cite. A bridge on both sides connects this little gem with the city. From the area of the ancient Jewish Ghetto, the Ponte Fabricio footbridge, Rome’s oldest original bridge still in use since 62 BC, crosses to the island. the Isola has long been associated with healing, and there is a hospital on the island. In 293 BC the Temple of Aesculapius was dedicated here to the god of healing and protector against the plague.
The River divides around the Isola, forming a shallow cataract on the left bank. A Roman arch bizarrely stands in the River, nesting seagulls at home on the grassy top. The island has a few restaurants and pharmacy, and other buildings not accessible from the main street. Tourists eat their sandwiches at the milky-green water’s edge.
The church of St Bartholomew was raised over the ruins of the former temple in the tenth century. In a side-chapel, Archbishop Rowan and Pope Benedict XVI knelt in St Bartolomeo all’ Isola and prayed for the new martyrs of the Anglican Communion.
The Isola is a lovely place of calm and healing, well worth the visit, and a must for any pilgrim from Canterbury.