Rome‘s famous Mouth of Truth, or Bocca della Verita` in Italian is one of the city’s quirkier attractions. It is, however shrouded in such mystery, history, and fame, that it can be quite fun to visit.
Historians are not exactly sure what the original purpose of the marble face was when it was carved in ancient times. Perhaps a part of a fountain, or maybe not so simple drain cover. Whatever its original purpose, it now resides in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
Legend from the Middle Ages says that if someone tells a lie, and then places a hand inside the mouth, it will close, and sever the hand of the liar. Another legend has it that during these times an executioner would hide behind with a sword, ready to strike the condemned liar furthering the myth.
Today, the legendary face conjures happy memories of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, embracing a day of freedom in the Eternal City. For many Americans, the film was the first introduction to the Mouth of Truth.
Visitors line up in front of the relief and pay a few coins to enter and have their picture made, hand in the open mouth. Apparently, we are all quite honest these days and the mouth remains open and smiling for the cameras!
After taking the picture, don’t miss the chance to go inside the church. It too, is full of history, built on the site of the ancient Roman temple to Hercules Invictus. It has been rebuilt and restored many times throughout the centuries. A visit to its crypt gives a glimpse of the ancient history inside.
The gift shop here is one of my favorites in Rome. My husband and I bought a beautiful calendar of water colored Roman scenes. Jewelry lovers will appreciate the little mouth of truth earrings in different varieties colors. Magnets, postcards, and pictures serve as charming mementos.
As we went to check out and spoke with the cashier, he asked how it was that two Americans were in his shop speaking to him in Italian. We professed our love and undying passion for his country and his language, and now, hanging on our refrigerator is lovely photo of Rome peeking out from a Mouth of Truth magnet that he gave to us that day.
When you visit Rome, once you have seen the incredible famous sites, be sure to see some of the quirkier, mysterious attractions as well. Most importantly, get to know these friendly people. Rome is my favorite city in the world for many reasons, but the feel and the passion of its people is number one.
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Lindsay Sinko, Passion for Italy Travel, USA