Rome is the capital of Italy and one of the most romantic cities in the world. Here, visitors can experience 3,000 years of development in Rome’s cityscape. Moreover, visitors can see signs of the city’s golden age in the enigmatic ruins of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon. More recent structures include St. Peter’s Basilica which lords over the Vatican. Meanwhile, the city has many well-visited spots, like the Trevi Fountain and more. However, Rome also has an unusual side with fascinating and whimsical attractions waiting to be found. Here are three.
1. The Mouth of Truth, Piazza della Bocca della Verità, 18, Rome
Nestled in Rome’s streets La Bocca della Verità, or Mouth of Truth is an ancient version of the modern lie detector. Carved as a face with hollow eyes and a gaping mouth, some believe it represents a pagan god. Meanwhile, this odd carving has been around since the 1st century CE and could have been a piece of a larger carving, or even just a manhole cover.
However, according to a legend, if you place your hand into the gaping maw and tell a lie, it will be bitten right off. The legend apparently dates from the Middle Ages when the face was used during trials. The accused would put their hand in the slot and if they were found to be untruthful, a hidden man with an ax would chop it off.
Nowadays, the Mouth of Truth stands outside the doors of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In fact, it has been used as a fun lie detector in a couple of movies. Most famously, the Mouth of Truth features in the 1953 film, Roman Holiday, where Gregory Peck’s character plays a trick on Audrey Hepburn’s character to much hilarity.
2. The Dome of Illusion, Jesuit Church of Saint Ignazio
The Jesuit Church of Saint Ignazio at Via del Caravita, 8, was originally planned to have a glorious dome. However, in 1642, the money ran out, so plans had to be scrapped. However, Jesuit brother and painter Andrea Pozzo came up with the perfect idea. He painted a life-sized illusion of a dome that would fool the eyes of visitors, as long as they looked from the correct angle. Painted between 1685 and 1694, the dome illusion still fools the eye today.
3. The Aventine Keyhole, Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta, 3, Rome
At the end of a cul-de-sac in Rome stands an ordinary-looking green door. However, the doorway leads to the Priory of the Knights of Malta, the legendary crusader knights. Since they used the property, it has changed hands a few times, becoming a palace, then a monastery. Finally, it ended up in the hands of the Knights Templar in the 1100s. Today, it is known as Santa Maria del Priorato.
However, the whimsical side of this ordinary door is a semi-secret peephole. When visitors put an eye to the keyhole they will get a beautiful view of the dome of St. Peter’s, perfectly centered.
Explore the more whimsical side of Rome on your next vacation in Italy and read more of our stories for curious travelers here.