It includes the Circus Maximus, the chariot and horse racing stadium that was the biggest in the empire, seating 150,000 people.
Another of Rome’s most famous attractions is here. The Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) is a big old 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.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not a very good tourist, so I don’t have a photo of the mask. I don’t understand why the people in the in the picture below would want to queue for an hour in the hot sun just so they can have their photo taken with it.
However, 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.
A little further away is the Theatre of Marcellus, the biggest and most important theatre in Ancient Rome holding up to 20,000 spectators.
Just up the road from the Circus Maximus at 74 Via di San Teodoro is the Campagna Amica Market www.campagnamica.it; 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.
Heading further south to my favourite neighbourhood in the old town next…