If one is in the mood for some romance, in Rome there is plenty you can choose from. One could start from Piazza Bocca della Verità, near the Lungotevere Aventino and more exactly from the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
To start in a symbolic way, one could enter it and, profanely, one could peek in to see the Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) and to touch with one’s hand a living legend. Exactly with the hand, as the legend states that the big face with the ambiguous expression, somewhat between sadness and being angry, with its open mouth would be ready to bite the hand of a liar. What better proof if visiting it would be two lovers? Who does not remember a hesitant Audrey Hepburn pushed to try it by Gregory Peck in “Roman Holidays” where she quickly removes the hand and then his badly hidden hesitation in putting the hand in the mouth and then faking the bite?
What if the rock would really take life and would bite? Better not try if one is not certain and instead start walking down Via di Santa Maria in Cosmedin and reach an uphill street, the Clivio di Rocca Savella. It will take you even higher, towards the Colle dell’Aventino (Aventino Hill). It is an ancient road, which takes its name from a powerful family, from which came high priests and senators. Now there are the remains of a fortress that during the time of the Roman Republic, in June 1849, was used by the French to bomb Garibaldi’s glorious army. It was exactly its height that favored gunners. In fact, it presented them with the view of Rome from up high.
Not much is left of the fortress, the external part with the embrasures, with tops with regular overhangs, with a tower-door, which allows you to imagine the movement of knights and horses, a war atmosphere that today has become peace and silence in a metaphorical passage from the Rome of the city traffic to the solemnity of the Aventino. It is almost as if the visitor could be part of a niche type of tourism, old-style, like at the time of the grand tour, so different from today’s lines with a flag so that one does not get lost or separated from the tour guide. It is, instead, the freedom of choice and the desire for an intimate sharing that leads us here, into a magic place characterized by perfumes and panorama, to the Giardino degli Aranci (The Orange Gardens).
This is where the Clivio di Rocca Savella takes you. In a place filled with plants, mostly of orange trees. It is a relatively more recent park, of 1932, designed with the modern standards that allowed one to visit the city in a calmer setting thanks to a park like this. Before going in, the big face of a 17th Century fountain reminds us of the Bocca della Verità seen before.
It has a big moustache, but is reminds couples, once again, the need for truth, even if there is no bite test. Once inside, amongst the plants and the flowers, to get the best view of the city, and if one calculates the trip times properly, it is best and more beautiful if one gets here at sunset. If one is an Italian movie lover, you will have another reason to smile for the name of one of the boulevards there, is after Nino Manfredi, a symbolic actor, together with Aldo Fabrizi, Paolo Panelli and some others, of the roman spirit. Then you will be able to think of a scene from “The Great Beauty”, when Joe Gambarella, during one of his strolls into the streets and the spirit of Rome, observes a group of novices on the basilica’s porch. He refreshes his head not far from the 17th century fountain.
He passes by it while one of the novices looks at him. The big stone face then becomes bigger and looks at him almost as if admonishing him. He sees young girls going back inside in the darkness of Santa Sabina and their joyous laugh is interrupted by the screechy voice of a woman on her cell phone. Then, from the bars, he sees a nun on a small ladder picking fruits from a tree in the Giardino degli Aranci. All the grass around the nun is filled with oranges and the nun’s robe looks like a bed sheet to the wind.
Irony and mystery are on the face of Tony Servillo, the actor who interprets the soul in front of the great beauty. This could be exactly the feeling of those who visit this side of Rome, which is not for everyone to be seen. Not only because only few decide to go there but also because to be able to see the great beauty and to perceive its ancient spirit one needs special eyes.