The Art: A cheap ceramic replica of La Bocca della Veritå; the ‘real deal’; and Audrey Hepburn testing its powers in Roman Holiday.
On my first ever visit to Rome, I wasn’t exactly bilingual (knowing only four words of Italian: fart, hooker, soother and ass), so when the owner of a trattoria told my friend and I we must visit the ‘Mouth of Truth’, it required an English/Italian dictionary and a little deductive reasoning to figure out that this was some sort of Oracle from ancient times.
Lucky for us, it’s not required that you be a vestal virgin to gain access to this soothsayer – La Bocca della Verità is easily accessible to anyone, situated 50 yards off one of the busiest streets in Rome in the portico of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin near Circo Massimo.
Once in the presence of this six-foot face, it is impossible not to want to test the gods and practice the ritual: stick your hand in the open mouth, and when asked a question, answer truthfully, or as legend has it, your hand will be bitten off.
Whether you believe this is nothing more than a 2000 year-old manhole cover, or a Seer of mythic proportions is a question of science or faith. But whatever you decide, one thing is true: La Bocca is only one of many examples in Rome where you can round a corner in this multi-layered historic city and find yourself face to face with the past. Literally.
As for whether you dare to tell the truth about your own past…well, that’s up to you.
The Fact: There’s no better way to explore Rome than to wander off the busier streets. Not only will you find little hole-in-the-wall places to shop (like where I bought my plaque) or small cafes where you can have a coffee, you’ll probably find that the prices are better if there isn’t a famous fountain in view. Sitting down will cost you more, however, no matter where you go, but once seated, no one will hustle you out any time soon. So take advantage of what that little extra charge buys you – time to enjoy the Eternal City.