Beyond Trastevere: The Mouth of Truth

When I was a kid I loved to watch old black-and-white movies with my mom and sister. I remember looking through a pile of old VHS video tapes at my grandparents’ house and finding Roman Holiday. As I watched, I realized that it was the first time I had ever experienced Rome in any way. I was immediately fascinated by how charming the city looked. It seemed so romantic, carefree, artistic, and full of history. Acting as a backdrop to one of the most iconic movies of that era, Rome itself felt like a true character in the film, and I absolutely loved that. I also loved the way Audrey Hepburn, in her leading role as Princess Ann, escapes all of her responsibilities to explore Rome and experience everything she possibly can in the “Eternal City,” in just a single day.

One of the scenes that always stuck with me was when Gregory Peck takes Audrey Hepburn to the Mouth of Truth. The Mouth of Truth, or the Bocca della Verità, is a famous marble “mask” weighing about 1300 kg. It is located near the Circus Maximus and the Temple of Hercules Victor. Although historians are unsure of its original purpose, they speculate that it was used as some sort of drain cover in the temple. It was eventually moved to its current location in the 17th century.

In the movie, Peck explains the old legend that if you stick your hand in the Bocca della Verità and tell a lie, your hand will be bitten off. The scene is playful and ironic since it refers to the fact that both of the main characters are being untruthful to one another and hiding who they really are. This iconic scene, along with many others from the movie, inspired me to one day travel to Rome and to visit the Mouth of Truth for myself.

It was during my second year at John Cabot University that I finally came to experience the old mask for myself. I think we all know that visiting a famous site in real life is not always exactly how it’s portrayed in the movies. I discovered that firsthand at the Mouth of Truth. Instead of a quiet time of reflection and reminiscing back to my Roman Holiday memories, I was rushed to quickly take a photo while a huge line of tourists waited for their turn right behind me. And while my experience was less than perfect, it was still a fun way to commemorate my life in Rome. It is an iconic spot, a must-see. Just as I would recommend any JCU student to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain any time they’re passing by, I would also advise them to put their hand in the daunting Mouth of Truth at least once during their time in Rome.


Alexa Vujaklija (Shearer)
Class of 2015
Communications major
Grew up in the United States, Germany, the Republic of Georgia, Russia, and Bulgaria

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