By far the most famous attraction in this square set between the Forum Boarium and the Tiber River is the Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità), located beneath the portico of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Featured in the 1953 film Roman Holiday, this massive ancient marble mask is one of Rome’s top attractions.
Legend holds that the Bocca della Verità, probably originally a 1st-century drain cover from the nearby Temple of Hercules Victor, will bite off the hand of anyone who dares speak an untruth while inserting a hand in the mask’s open mouth. Audiences were charmed by Audrey Hepburn’s reaction when Gregory Peck feigned having his hand devoured in their iconic romantic comedy, and today visitors in Rome line up in droves to put the legend to the test.
The Bocca della Verità is one of the most beloved and whimsical attractions in Rome, and Piazza della Bocca della Verità is included in many walking, bike, and Vespa tours of the city’s highlights. Visit the legendary sculpted mask as part of a classic Fiat 500 tour of the Eternal City, or combine a visit with skip-the-line tickets for the nearby Colosseum and the Vatican Museums.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You can view the mask from outside the church gates, but to take a picture with your hand in the Mouth of Truth, you’ll have to wait in line to access the enclosed portico.
- Visitors are urged to snap their pictures quickly to keep the long line moving along, so have your camera ready.
- This is a fun stop for kids, but remember that you only have a few seconds to pose them with their hands in the mask’s mouth.
- The church portico and Bocca della Verità is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Piazza della Bocca della Verità is along the Tiber River just across the Ponte Palatino bridge from the Trastevere neighborhood. A number of city buses from the Termini train station and across the city stop in or near the square.
When to Get There
The marble mask is only accessible when the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin is open, as it is located under the portico behind the church gates. Plan to get there first thing in the morning when the portico opens to avoid the long lines that form later in the day.
Other Sights in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin
After your snapshot of the Bocca della Verità, take a few minutes to visit Santa Maria in Cosmedin, one of the most important medieval churches in Rome. The church has the tallest medieval bell tower in the city and beautiful Cosmatesque floors, and is home to what many believe to be the skull of Saint Valentine.