My dear adventurers under the bridges, our long riding is about to end. We were able to see this wonderful city from below. The bridge in front of our highlights is Ponte Testaccio: it was started in 1938 and was initially called Ponte d’Africa because it was the extension of the neighboring Via Africa which today is called Viale Aventino. Are you getting used to all these constant name changes, isn’t it? The construction of the bridge slowed down considerably due to the continuous floods and the war: the arch (the only one present in the structure) was built in 1943 and the works ended on 22 July 1948, giving the bridge the primacy as the first bridge built after the war. Its length is 122 meters for a width of 32.
Are you wondering where the name Testaccio comes from? The name of the bridge comes from the neighboring district, Testaccio. Today it is one of the most exclusive areas of Rome, but once it wasn’t quite like that. Testaccio derives from “testae”, which are fragments, or to put it better, shards of terracotta amphorae. These amphorae were unloaded from boats on the Tiber to be deposited in local warehouses. Often it happened that they were broken, generating shards and accumulating in the streets. All these shards have even gave birth to an artificial hill with a circumference of 850 meters and a height of 35 meters then called “Monte dei cocci e dei giochi” (hill of shards and games)!
The addition of the word “games” is due to the playful past of the neighborhood; since the Middle Ages the Romans had transformed the area into a playground and in particular the “game of Testaccio” was the one that attracted and amused the people most. The game consisted of a sort of tournament with races, bullfights and fights between bulls, men and dogs. There were not only recreational events. During the Holy Week the “Game of the Passion” was staged, it was an itinerant procession with typical costume with which the people recited improvised dialogues. In memory of this event a cross, still existing today, was placed on top of the hill of the shards.
Another very funny game at the time was called the “ruzzica” ( or ruzzola): it consisted of throwing a very heavy wooden wheel on top of the mountain. Obviously, the one who threw it the farthest won. Among the games of that time we also find a sort of ancient talent scout: a competition of improvised stornelli (folk songs) dedicated to the most beautiful woman of the day, for the occasion called “la bellona” (the beautiful).
The next bridge is called San Paolo Railway Bridge. Actually its history is linked to the logistics of the place; in fact, it guarantees the passage of trains between the Trastevere and Ostiense stations. It was built by the State Railways between 1907 and 1910.
The bridge we are about to see now, originally called S.Paolo, today takes the name of Ponte dell’industria. It was built between 1862 and 1863 by a Belgian company to connect the railway line of Civitavecchia, which until then had its station just outside Porta Portese, to the new central Termini railway station. At the beginning, the bridge, consisting of iron and cast-iron supported arches, was raised in the central part, in order to allow the steamers and the armed ships to pass freely. On the 10th of July 1863 the first locomotive crossed the bridge and on the 14th, the papal engineers sent two trains at the same time for loading tests. On the 24th of September, in the presence of Pope Pius IX, the train of the Rome-Civitavecchia line officially passed on the bridge. In 1910 Ponte dell’industria was replaced, due to the railway viability, by the nearby Ponte di San Paolo and in 1911 its structure was subjected to radical reconstructions: since then, both cars and pedestrians on designated sidewalks can cross the bridge. Ponte dell’industria, more commonly known as the “Ponte di ferro” (iron bridge), has a length of 131.20 meters, a width of 7.25 and has three metal beam lights.
The last bridge we cross is Ponte della Scienza, which connects Lungotevere Vittorio Gassman to the area of the former gazometer and which is the result of an international competition won by the Apst Architettura in 2000.
The project has a poetic background: in fact, the former industrial area of the Ostiense neighborhood, enclosed between the Tiber river and the Via Ostiense, is characterized by the presence of large disused industrial plants and appears as a great “gap” to the inside the building fabric of the consolidated city. Designing a bridge in that place meant, first of all, re-establishing a link with the rest of the surrounding neighborhoods (Marconi, Ostiense, Testaccio). The idea that time has stopped and that this area preserves a “different” time from the one we live every day, attributes considerable interest and value to the project of Ponte della Scienza. The bridge is also the means to mend the neighborhoods and find the link with the time that was believed lost. The bridge was opened on the 29th of May 2014 and inaugurated on the 8th of July. In this day, the mayor named the bridge after the Italian scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini, who died in 2012.
What do you think? Did you like this unusual Rome? Now we are ready to return above the river level! Once again, I want to thank the guys from the 47 Bike Voyager for telling me all these fascinating things and allowing me to live them with you!
See you on the next adventure!