As a disclaimer: These photos were taken during a visit in April 2016, so this post may not be representative of this site today.
I remember playing Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and reaching the Assassin hideout and seeing that it was located on this tiny little island right on the Tiber and thinking, That is so cool. It was even cooler to learn that this hadn’t been made up by the game, and that indeed, there is such an island, and it’s called Isola Tiberina. It is also the only such island in the Tiber within the bounds of Rome.
In ancient times it was already connected to the mainland by bridges, and was the site of a temple of Asclepius (Greek god of medicine) and later a hospital – the island was always been associated with medicine and healing. Today, it holds the Fatebenefratelli Hospital, dating from the 16th century, and the San Bartolomeo all’Isola, a basilica dating from the 10th.
If you continue walking past the Isola Tiberina into the other side of the river, you’ll reach the area of Rome that I loved most: Trastevere. Its name originates from the Latin trans Tiberim, meaning “beyond the Tiber” (similar to Oltrarno in Florence).
In the very beginnings of Roman history, this area belonged to the Etruscans, and was later conquered by the Romans to control both banks of the river. By the time of the Republic (roughly 500 BCE), fishers and sailors lived here, as well as immigrants from the East, and by the time of Augustus (7 BCE) it had been given its Latin name and denominated the 14th region of Rome.
In the Middle Ages, it held an important Jewish community, and Rome’s oldest remaining synagogue can be found here, though it is no longer in use.
Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
One of the oldest churches in Rome, it was initially built in the 3rd Century CE as a house-church by Pope Saint Callixtus I. In the 4th century it was rebuilt by Pope Julius I, and for the final time by Pope Innocent II in the 12th, who razed it completely and stated anew.
These ionic capitals were taken either from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla or the nearby Temple of Isis on the Janiculum. Apparently some decoration of Isis, Serapis, and Harpocrates had remained, and was hammered off during the 19th century once it was identified.
The mosaics in the church, besides being undeniably gorgeous, were created in the 12th century by Pietro Cavallini. They depict scenes from the life of the Virgin.
The church claims to hold a relic of Saint Appollonia (her head), as well as a portion of the Holy Sponge, which was dipped in liquid (vinegar, sour wine, or posca) and offered to Christ to drink during the Crucifixion.