The Three Mouths of Italy

The Three Mouths of ItalyThe Italians have a very interesting way to wish you success. They say “In bocca al lupo” which translated into English means “Into the wolf’s mouth”. The good luck metaphor can be interpreted in the following way. Your misfortune, bad luck and lack of a stroke of luck will be caught between the jaws of a scary beast which will swallow them up. And why exactly a wolf? Because a wolf might symbolize a hard person or a hardship you must overcome. Or maybe it’s connected with Rome’s foundation myth about the Capitoline She-Wolf and Romulus and Remus.

Apart from this typically Italian expression for good luck there are three very notable and extremely photographed monuments (or better said places) related to la bocca (i.e. the mouth).  

The first one is in Rome and is called La Bocca della verità (or The Mouth of Truth). Maybe you’ve heard about it and now you simply cannot remember it. Of course! That mouth appeared in the film “Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in 1953. But do you know what it was for? Well, it used to be a street manhole cover in ancient Roman times when the streets were covered with such utility holes with the shape of river Gods with half-opened mouths which “soaked up” rainy water. Nowadays that bocca is a decoration of the porch the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in today’s Rome and there is one belief going with it. If one puts their hand into the mouth of the manhole and lies, the hand will be bitten off immediately.

The second mouth is La Bocca di leone (or The Lion’s Mouth) in Venice and dates back to the times of glory of the Venetian Republic. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t only a single mouth-monument but Le Bocche di leone was a term that stood for a great number of “postal boxes” (like the ones of present times) where anyone could make a denunciation anonymously. After that their secret letters were reviewed and traitors and unloyal merchants (unfortunately, sometimes innocent citizens, too) were caught and had to walk the Bridge of Sighs which was the last place where they saw the sun before being put to prison from where no one could escape.

Last but not least is the mouth of il Porcellino (or the boar) in the photo. It’s a famous bronze fountain of a boar in a Baroque style in Florence. Unlike the Venetian mouths, this one brings luck. It’s situated in the centre of the Old Town and attracts visitors with its widely opened jaws where tourists put a coin. The aim is their coin to fall down into the underlying grating on the pavement beneath the boar. This ritual will bring them much good luck. Furthermore, anyone should rub the little, sweet snout thus ensuring a return to the town of the Medici.

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3 thoughts on “The Three Mouths of Italy

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