La Bocca della verità: a little bit of history

La Bocca Della Verità is an image, carved from pavonazzo marble, of a face, located in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome.

The sculpture is thought to be part of a first-century ancient Roman fountain, or perhaps a manhole cover, portraying one of several possible pagan gods, probably Oceanus. Most Romans believe that the ‘Bocca’ represents the ancient god of the river Tiber.

The most famous characteristic of the Mouth, however, is its role as a lie detector. Starting from the Middle Ages, it was believed that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. There was also a medieval legend, wrongly believed to originate with the Roman poet Virgil, of an adulterous empress who managed to deceive her husband in a trial using the Mouth. The piece was placed in the portico of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin in the 17th century. This church is also home to the relics of Saint Valentine.

When to go

If you want to see the sculpture of the Bocca Della Verità, you have to come in the morning or in the afternoon, because the portico of the church is opened only from 9.30 am till 5.30 pm, so if you come here in the evening or late afternoon, you won’t be able to see it, or to try to put your hand inside and tell a lie.

What and where to eat

The Mouth of Truth is very close to Circo Massimo, so a lot of the good places of this area are close to both, but I have two places I can recommend: the first one is a Gelateria, the Gelateria Ai Cerchi (Via dei Cerchi 61), one of the best gelato of this part of the city; and the second one is a restaurant, the Circus Roof Garden (Via Luigi Petroselli 47), a restaurant placed on the roof of the Hotel Fortyseven, the view from this restaurant and the suggestive atmosphere are really stunning and for sure the best part of this place (obviously the food is good, too!). At the very end of Via di San Teodoro there is a very cozy pastry shop that is a milestone in Rome: Cristalli di Zucchero, where every bite is Heaven. On Saturdays and Sundays same road hosts the Farmer’s market, come here to see products farm to table (Did you now? This market is located in the old location for the Jewish fish market. Gourmetaly organizes a nice 2 hours food tour here.

How to reach it

There are a lot of buses that arrive in this area: 83, 170, 63 and so on…but for sure the best way to arrive here is to walk! The entire area is amazing, so it’s one of the best place to go for a walk and just get lost around and discover something new, different, strange, beautiful, ancient, new and so on.

Contact us

Any enquiry about this article? Write to Antonia at love@gourmetaly.com.
Antonia is a local foodie and insider, she studied foreign languages and she speaks English and German. Meet Antonia and join one of our events.