Bocca della Verità – The Mouth of Truth

Country: Italy City: Rome Name of Site: Bocca della Verità – The Mouth of Truth
General Info: The Bocca della Verità is probably the world’s oldest tourist trap. Located at the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, it was most likely originally a drain cover. Not exciting. The legend, however, is much more exciting – if you stick your hand in the mouth, and you’re a liar, supposedly your hand will be eaten by the mouth. CHOMP! The legend – and the mouth – are prominent in the Gregory Peck / Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday.

By Dnalor 01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Address/Location: Piazza Bocca della Verità
How to Get There: 

Metro: 10 minute walk from Circo Massimo stop on Metro Line B.

Foot: 10 minute walk south from Piazza Venezia, or very close to the northwest end of the Circus Maximus.

Days / Hours: Daily 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Adult/Child Cost: Free, €0.50 suggested donation
Tips – Line: You get to the outside of the church, and hopefully you haven’t showed up right after a cruise boat excursion arrived. There’s a sign that says something to the effect of “only one picture please” – I’ve taken multiple pictures, but you gotta be quick, so I would have your picture-taking strategy ready to go by the time you’re up there. You’ll get less pushback from the mean/bored-looking guard if you’re quick.
Free Wifi? No.
Bathrooms- Closest public restrooms that I’m aware of are back at the Capitoline Museums or at the Circo Massimo metro stop.
Strollers- All you’re doing here is waiting in a line outside the church and taking a picture, strollers are fine. In fact, they’re really nice for the walk over, depending on the age of your kids.
Outside food allowed inside? You could probably snack while you’re waiting in line. Around the Piazza, at Circus Maximus, or at the nearby – and absoutely delightful – Giardino degli Aranci there are some good picnic places – either pack a picnic in the morning or if you’ll have walked from Piazza Venezia, you’ll have passed a Carrefour Express grocery store where you can pick up some things.
Is it Worth It? Yeah, I think so. I don’t mind the walk to the church, it’s a nice walk and the nearby Circus Maximus is a good place for the kids to run around. (It might be a little more difficult on a hot/sunny day, but take advantage of shade and make a picnic stop.)
How to Get Kids Excited (books/movies/activities): Watching the scene from Roman Holiday should be enough – the concept in itself is enough to get kids excited. Act with care, though – before we went here, when my daughter asked me about the legend, she admitted to me that sometimes she lies and then she broke down and cried. Cute girl. 🙂
💡 Things to mention so your family thinks you’re smart: I think the church is pretty cool-looking, it’s rare to find a church interior that is largely unchanged from how it looked in 1100. Also, in a side altar on the left side of the church there is a flower-crowned skull attributed to Saint Valentine, as in Valentine’s Day.