Rome – Centro Storico – things to see and eat in Ripa

Ripa is the neighbourhood on the east bank of the Tiber that’s south of the Isola Tiberina and the Jewish Ghetto. Many famous ancient sights are located in the area. Neighbourhood map here. Rome map here.

Walking down Via del Teatro di Marcello (coming from the Capitoline Hill, see previous post) the first sight you come to is the Theatre of Marcellus, the biggest and most important theatre in Ancient Rome holding up to 20,000 spectators.

A little further along the road is one of Rome’s most famous attractions. The Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) is a big marble mask with a hand-sized slot for a mouth.

Legend has it that if a liar puts their hand in the mouth it will be bitten off, but the truthful will be unscathed, as Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck demonstrate in this famous scene in Roman Holiday. Originally it’s thought that the mask might have been a drain cover from a nearby Roman temple but it’s been in its present position outside Santa Maria in Cosmedin church since 1632.

Although it’s a fun thing to do, personally I don’t understand why the people in the in the picture below would want to queue for over an hour in the hot sun just so they can have their photo taken with it (I’m not a very good tourist). I didn’t bother in 2018 but in 2020 when the city was virtually tourist-free due to Covid, I was able to walk straight in to see it. In fact the attendant was so bored that he offered to take pictures of me!

If it’s busy and you don’t fancy waiting, you can walk around the queue and have a look inside Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, founded in the 6th century during the period of Byzantine rule.

It’s worth a look for the beautiful Cosmatesque floor of inlaid geometric stonework, a feature of Byzantine churches.

Also, in a side chapel of the church is the (alleged) skull of St Valentine.

Over the road from the church is the Forum Boarium, the former cattle market. There are a couple of temples still standing here; the circular Temple of Hercules Victor, Rome’s oldest marble building from the second century BC, and the Temple of Portunus, a rectangular building built between 100 and 80 BC.

Another interesting building is the Casa dei Crescenzi at 54 Via Luigi Petroselli which is an example of an aristocratic house built between the 11th and 12th centuries.

Nearby is the Circus Maximus, the chariot and horse racing stadium that was the biggest in the empire, seating 150,000 people.

Just up the road from the Circus Maximus at 74 Via di San Teodoro is the Campagna Amica Market; a farmers market held every Saturday and Sunday. I arrived a little late so I nearly missed out on a sandwich from the excellent porchetta stand. They were nearly down to the snout by the time I got there. With a couple of craft beers this made for a cheap, tasty lunch.

There were lots of other goodies on show as well of course. Videos here and here. I’d be here every weekend if I lived here.

Heading further south to Testaccio, my favourite neighbourhood in the old town, next…

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