The Tiber River in Rome

The Tiber River in Rome Italy: History & Fun Things To Do

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The Tiber River is one of Italy’s longest rivers, and runs right through Rome. In Roman times, it was the main source of fresh water for the population, and it still remains important to this day.

Nowadays however the riverbanks in the city of Rome are more a place for Instagram photos, than for washing your clothes, especially from one of its many picturesque bridges. Skirting past the Trastevere district this is truly a river that runs through Rome in all senses.

Remarkable Tiber River History

The Tiber River features heavily in the story of the history of Rome. Rumour has it that it was in the waves of the River Tiber that Romulus and Remus were nearly drowned. Instead, they went on to apparently found the city of Rome.

This River was key to Rome’s development, as it allowed materials, supplies and people to move easily between locations. The river Tiber fed the underground sewer system, known as the Cloaca Maxima, continually with fresh water.

Nowadays the river is much shallower and the main maritime activity of Rome is conducted from Fiumicino.

Oh, and a little bit about the name. Legend has it that the river gets its name from the drowning of KingTiberinus over three thousand years ago, although historians believe it probably originates from the ancient Etruscan language.

Where Is the Tiber River Located

Beginning in the Apennine Mountains the river flows down through Tuscany and Umbria, before entering the Lazio region in which Rome is located. Stretching 406kms, it joins the Tyrrhenian Sea at Ostia. You can check out the route of this famous Roman river by looking at this Tiber River map.

Why Is the Tiber River Important for Rome Today?

It is clear that this river in Rome, Italy is important to Romans due to its history and the role it played in the founding of the city. Central to trade and transportation, the settlement of Rome grew from strength to strength.

This important contribution to what Rome is today has entered the average Roman’s psyche, and you can see the river depicted in art in museums across the city. The Tiber River map often features on paintings throughout the city. Not to mention in the history books!

7 Interesting Facts about the Tiber River

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Let’s get in some Tiber River facts so you can impress your travel companions as you walk along its banks!

  1. With a length of 252 miles and a drainage basin of 6,709 sq mi, the River Tiber covers an area of 5% of the whole of Italy!
  2. You may have heard of the phrase “To Cross The Tiber”. This is a religious reference for those who convert to catholicism.
  3. On January 1st every year locals jump into the freezing water from the Ponte Cavour. However note: swimming in the river is illegal and actually pretty dangerous.
  4. A marble column erected by Mussolini can be found at the source of the River Tiber. In a throwback to Italy’s troubled past during WW2, an engraving reads QUI NASCE IL FIUME SACRO AI DESTINI DI ROMA, which translates as “Here is born the river / sacred to the destinies of Rome”
  5. The Tiber is crossed by no less than 26 bridges in Rome!!
  6. Rome’s oldest bridge can be seen on many a Tiber River map, and is known as the Pons Fabricius. It dates to 62BC!
  7. The River Tiber is mentioned in Enoch Powell’s controversial and inflammatory Rivers of Blood speech

Tiber River Pollution: The Truth Kept from Tourists

It may not be known that the River Tiber in Ancient Rome suffered from pollution! Since the first sewer system – the Cloaca Maximus – was established there has been waste flowing around the Roman section of the river.

The pollution eventually led to the building of the aqueducts so that there would be clean water available to drink! Unfortunately, the case continues in modern times. The municipality adds treated sewage back into the river, which should in theory not be a problem as it has chemicals added to neutralise harmful bacteria.

Unfortunately however, studies have shown that only 50-60% of the bacteria is eradicated. So there is a risk of things like E.coli. This affects much of the ecosystem, reduces the fish population and – as the river empties into the Ostia Port – also affects that area.

Things to Do on the Tiber River: The Local’s List

Roman Tiber River bridge
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Let’s check out the things that you can do in and around the river so you can consider what to do when planning your trip!

Dinner Cruise Rome

In a city known for romance and style, what better way to treat yourself than an evening dinner cruise! There are many different operators offering tours ranging from wine and appetisers from around €30 to full dinner from about €100 per person. Sights you can expect to see include the many bridges along the river and attractions such as the Castel Sant'Angelo with views of St Peter’s, all with a nice glass of wine in hand!

Bike Path

Feeling adventurous, or perhaps needing to work off last night's carbonara? Then get active with a cycle along the bike path. Stretching 33 kilometres and going right through Rome, it’s a great way to see some of the city and surroundings. It follows the River Tiber, and means you can cycle in safety away from the many cars and mopeds! To get going, check out Easy Bike Rent Rome to hire your wheels.

Boat Tours

One of the most traditional ways to explore the attractions along the River Tiber is a boat tour. Starting from around 20€ (or less for some operators) you can expect a multilingual audio guide on the majority. This will point out the attractions as you pass by. Expect to see stunning views of St Peter’s Basilica, Castel St Angelo and panoramic cityscapes as you pass by.

Can You Cross Tiber River on Foot? The Best Bridges in Rome

You have ample choice for crossing the Tiber River on foot from one of its 26 bridges! From modern constructions to ancient Roman miracles, you will find plenty of photo opportunities. Romantics should visit one of the oldest – the Ponte Milvio – and chain a padlock to it. For an artsy vibe, check out the Ponte Fabricio which often has a bunch of artists selling wares. The famous Ponte Sant’Angelo is one for the photo album!

Can You Swim in the River Tiber?

Back in the day it was a common site, but swimming in the River Tiber is not recommended, and you could even get a fine. You wouldn’t want to do it anyway when you see the colour of it in the city centre, and the number of boats that are using the waterway. If you want to swim, use a municipal swimming pool or better still combine your trip to Rome with a stay at an Italian beach resort.

Building in the River Tiber into Your Rome City Break

Of course, the River Tiber is so intrinsically entwined with the city of Rome that you can’t help but bump into it as you go! The area of Trastevere is a common place to visit, and is especially famous for food tours near the River Tiber and the popular Jewish Ghetto Walking Tour.

You’ll also see it as you go around the city – in a taxi, your own vehicle, on foot or – better still – for around €145 per person you can rent a vintage Fiat and tour it! If you are visiting St Peter’s Square for a tour then you will likely see or pass by the river.

Stop for a Meal in These River Tiber Restaurants

Head to Tiber Island – in Italian the Isola Tiberina – for a great selection of bars and restaurants with stunning views.

Tiberino Ristorante

It offers breakfast pastries, sandwiches for lunch, and delicious gelato. In the evening, the snack bar vibe disappears and the place becomes a spot for a delicious Roman meal. Check out the menu on the website.

Sora Lella

It is one of the other restaurants on Tiber Island, offering amazing pizza. It is one of the many vegan friendly restaurants in Rome that are popping up around the city. Typical Roman food is served in an establishment that dates back over 80 years! Check it out here.

Where to Stay near the River Tiber

Hotel Diplomatic from @booking.com
@booking.com_hotel_diplomatic

With so many hotels to choose from you’ll surely find something for your taste! Let’s look at a few options.

All You Need Is Rome

Located in the fabulous Prati District, this guesthouse offers a fabulous location and clean modern rooms. Doubles with a private bathroom include access to youtube and NetFlix on the tv, and there is a communal kitchen. Budget about €80 here for a double room.

Hotel Diplomatic

With rooms starting at just over €100 and a wonderful location, the Hotel Diplomatic offers rooms with wifi and traditional decor right in the heart of Rome. You’ll find this hotel also in the Prati district on the Via Vittoria Colonna.

Relais Orso

If you want to splash a bit more cash but still keep it reasonable, the Relais Orso would be a great option. This 17th-century townhouse boasts stunning panoramic views from its terrace. Rooms are decorated in an industrial style but the best bit is the location. Located just across the River Tiber from the Castel Sant'Angelo, you’ll be ready to take your camera out as soon as you leave your room! Doubles start from €225.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Which two crops were popular along the Tiber river?

As in many locations in Italy, olives and grapes were traditional crops grown in the river area.

Which capital city is on the Tiber river?

The city of Rome was formed along the river.

How long is the Tiber river in Italy?

It's 252 miles long!

Why was the Tiber river important to ancient Rome?

This river helped Rome develop by allowing people, trade and goods to be easily transported along its waterways.

How deep is the Tiber river?

At some points, the river gets to around 20 feet deep.

What direction does the Tiber river flow?

Overall the river flows in a southern direction.

What river was Rome built on?

Rome was built on the River Tiber.

Conclusion

Make sure you check out all of the great things to do in Rome, many of which are not far from the banks of this famous river.

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