Nero’s bridge foundations exposed by drought in Italy

Drop in water levels has also exposed a Second World War tank in the Po river

The exposed ruins of Nero’s Bridge, next to the Vittorio Emanuele bridge in Rome. AP
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Roman ruins in Italy have been revealed as the country faces its worst drought in 70 years.

In Rome, the River Tiber's water levels have dropped significantly near the Vittorio Emanuele bridge to expose the foundations of a Roman pier that was once part of “Nero’s Bridge”.

“Because the water level of the river is so low now, due to widespread drought across Italy, we’re able to see a lot more of the piers of the bridge than we usually could,” historian Anthony Majanlahti said.

“Generally speaking, only in the driest season does part of this pier turn up above the water, and now we can see part of a second pier.”

The bridge, named after the famous Roman emperor, fell into disrepair by the third century.

Bridge traffic was diverted to the nearby Sant’Angelo Bridge, which funnelled pilgrims past the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican and St Peter’s Square.

“The Pons Neronianus, or the Bridge of Nero, was built probably by either the Emperor Nero, who it’s called after, or the Emperor Caligula, who is his predecessor, two Emperors before," Mr Majanlahti said.

“It seems to have been built principally for the emperor to be able to get across to his gardens, to the family pleasure gardens, on the side of the Janiculum hill, facing over towards what is now Piazza San Pietro.”

Nero’s Bridge is believed to have had four piers originally, but Mr Majanlahti said two were dismantled in the 19th century to allow improve the flow of river traffic.

The Italian government has declared a state of emergency in several regions because of the prolonged drought and accompanying heatwave.

The drought has also exposed a Second World War tank in Italy’s largest river, the Po, as well as 20th century ordinance in lakes.

Updated: August 25, 2022, 3:57 PM