Ponte Rotto - History and Facts | History Hit

Ponte Rotto

Rome, Lazio, Italy

Ponte Rotto is the remaining arch of a second century BC Roman Republic bridge.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Ponte Rotto

Ponte Rotto, originally known as Pons Aemilius, is Rome’s oldest, albeit defunct, stone bridge. Built in the second century BC to replace its wooden predecessor, Ponte Rotto, meaning the ‘broken bridge’, is indeed missing most of its original structure.

History of Ponte Rotto

Before its destruction, Ponte Rotto was known as Ponte Emilio. It was preceded by a wooden version, which was later replaced by stone in 179 BC.

The bridge once spanned the river Tiber, with a primitive version of the later stone bridge existing in 192 BC. Several years later the first stone bridge was constructed in 179 BC, but, the Romans being fine and through builders and architects, was not completed until 151 BC. The bridge’s piers date from this period, although its arches were constructed in 142 BC. This bridge stayed in place for several hundred years before undergoing repairs by both Emperors Augustus and Probus as late as AD 280.

Floods have damaged the bridge many times, with the first being in AD 1230, after which Pope Gregory XI repaired it. Further heavy damage occurred in 1557, until the most serious on Christmas Eve, 1598, which carried away the eastern half of the bridge and rendered the bridge unusable.

For many years, it was used as a fishing pier, until Pope Pius IX attempted to repair it in 1853 by adding an iron footbridge to connect the bridge to the mainland on the other side. This proved too heavy, however, and the metal structure was demolished along with another arch to make way for the Ponte Palatino, leaving the single arch which still stands to this day.

It was at this time that the bridge gained its current name, Ponte Rotto, or the ‘Broken Bridge’. It enjoys cult status amongst visitors to Rome, including William Turner, who, in 1819, left behind a series of sketches of the bridge after his visit to Rome.

Ponte Rotto Today

Walking tours and Italians alike pass the Ponte Rotto every day, marvelling at the lone arch which is now just an echo of the bridge’s once impressive and almost mythical majesty.

The bridge serves as a reminder of the history’s incredible heritage alongside the countless other beautiful monuments and churches that make the city such a popular tourist destination.

Getting to Ponte Rotto

Ponte Rotto is a scenic half an hour walk from Rome’s picturesque centre, primarily along the Via Nazionale. It is also reachable in under ten minutes along the Via Nazionale by both car and bicycle. Frequent buses 170 and H depart every ten minutes from the city centre and arrive right by the river’s edge.


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