How did we spend Christmas Eve in Rome?
Since our hotel was off the historic center’s main street, Via Del Corso, the energy of the street was in high drive. Everyone seemed to be enjoying time with family as well as rushing around to find the perfect last-minute gift. We bought some goodies for each other at some stores (LUSH was my poison) and bought some roasted chestnuts being sold on the street. I couldn’t help but think about the lyric “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” when we saw the chestnut stand on this Christmas Eve day.
We were walking towards Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin. I wanted to go stick my hand in the Bocca della Verità – translated to “the mouth of truth.” I’d done this years ago (2009) with my friend, Megan while we were study abroad students in Italy, so I was overdue for a visit. It’s a tourist rite of passage made famous in the 1950s after Audrey Hepburn’s famous stint in the movie, “Roman Holiday.”
The legend of this “mouth” is it will gobble up your hand or maybe even arm if you are a filthy liar. So! Millions of tourists come every year to stick their hand in the mouth of the ancient sculpture. No matter how much you know it’s a joke, you can’t help feeling a tinge of anxiety/excitement as your hand enters the mouth of the statue. Will you be the first victim?
It’s even more fun when you pretend you’re definitely being eaten alive in front of your partner. Gregory Peck perfected this trick in the 1950s, quintessential Roman tourist movie, “Roman Holiday.” If you haven’t seen it – stop reading this post right now and rent it on a streaming service immediately! It’s a timeless movie full of laughs and romance.
After we survived the Mouth of Truth, we wandered into the church it is housed in, Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin. The church was built in the 8th century over the foundations of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Hercules. The decorations of the church are not elaborate compared to Renaissance era churches you see in Italy. But the decorations from the 800s-1100s make this church a unique beauty among all the others. It’s plain wooden and marble surroundings create a peaceful place to find the quiet.
After visiting Cosmedin, we found ourselves in a park, made up of a large empty meadow, lined on one side with ancient ruins. As we walked and felt the sun on our faces, we saw out of the corner of our eyes green parrots!!! We were immediately surprised seeing as though we were in the heart of Rome and surrounded by flocks of bright green and yellow tropical birds!!!
It turns out these birds are Rose-ringed Parakeets. They are a tropical Afro-Asian bird species that was first noticed in Rome’s Villa Pamphili in the late 1970s. It’s believed that someone’s tropical pet birds got on the loose and “voila!” – now we have these birds in the wild in Rome.
After the tropical bird sighting, we wandered and found our way to the Largo di Torre Argentina area. These ruins are a little different from the rest because they are the home of a cat sanctuary! This is a cat rescue where volunteers take care of old, homeless, disabled cats. We went inside, saw cats hanging around and playing inside with visitors.
Before we headed back to the hotel Paul got a haircut and beard groom. He got conned by an 85-year-old, second generation Roman barber. The barber made Paul pay him 95 euros when he initially said it’d be 35 euros. After the stunt we drank beers, laughed off the conman, and decided to consider it the conman’s Christmas gift.
Despite the injustice, I believe this to be the best looking con job I’ve ever seen! Paul looked very handsome and ready for my Birthday dinner the next night 🙂