Rome is full of mysteries, but being able to see with our own eyes the exact spot where it was born is certainly an incredible experience. Our tour of the Velabro is a journey through time that starts from around 3000 years ago to the last century, to the places and stories that marked the creation of the capital city of Italy.
But where does the word "Velabro" come from and what does it mean?
It is said that the valley going from the Roman Forum to the Tiber was often submerged by the river water and became, over time, a swampy area. The word 'velus', that is 'marsh' in Latin, was used, and was then changed to 'velabrum', describing the peculiarity of this area.
Why is this area of Rome so special?
The main characteristic of the valley is that it is considered to be the area where the brothers Romulus and Remus, founders of Ancient Rome, were found in a basket along the river. Legend has it that they were found by a she-wolf who took them in and looked after them. However, it is said that it was not an animal, but a poor courtesan woman named "Acca Larentia" who seems to have frequented the place to earn her bread and consequently found the two abandoned brothers.
What does Rome's Velabro hide that you don't know yet?
Rome is full of marvellous monuments able to preserve its great history; it is an inexhaustible source of legends that, even today remain unknown to most. The Velabro is a small area of the city that represents a concentration of beauty, history and myths, living in the shadow of the renowned Bocca della Verità. Not only will we discover the architectural and monumental beauties of this corner of the capital, but we will also understand the reason for the current use of customs or idioms of the past.
Churches, arches, ancient temples, are waiting for us to reveal their stories and timeless secrets.
OUR ROUTE between magic formulas and unexpected discoveries!
Starting from Piazza Bocca della Verità, our tour first passes by the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, a rare and magnificent example of medieval architecture, built in the 7th century on the remains of ancient buildings on the edge of the Foro Boario, the ancient food market near the Tiber river.
We will start our tour by admiring the Bocca della Verità, the legendary marble mask, which was once the cover of a well, and will discover why it is still so feared today! It has stood on the wall of the pronaos (the space between the cella and the columns in front) of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin since 1632 and is considered a must-see for anyone visiting Rome.
In spite of its "past life", the Bocca della Verità was also a great protagonist in the world of movies during the last century! Perhaps not everyone knows that during the filming of the 1953 film "Roman Holiday" (Wyler), this spot was the stage for one of the most successful and improvised scary scenes in the film world, contributing greatly to its success! In fact,
Peck, through his joke, explains to his partner that the legend was that whoever was accused of lying had to put his hand inside his mouth and, if found guilty, it would be torn off and swallowed! Hepburn, for stage duty, put her hand inside and pulled it out respecting her lines. Peck did the same but, at the moment of pulling out his hand, he pretended that it was being blocked and ripped off and his colleague's reaction was one of sudden panic! She realised after a few moments that it was a joke and ended the scene with Peck with a hug and a laugh!
We will continue our visit towards the Quadrifrontal Arch known as the 'Arch of Janus', which will take us into the thousand-year-old Church of St George in Velabro. The figure after whom the church was named, St George of Cappadocia, was a martyr from the East and one of the most venerated saints in the world. Among the many legends about him, the most popular one is that he killed a dragon and rescued a princess! Next to the church, the highly decorated Arch of the Argentari awaits. This arch is also linked to a magic formula that, if pronounced in front of it, could make you rich! However, it should only be pronounced if all the right conditions are met. Otherwise, if you are greedy you will become poorer! Will it be you, of all your tour companions, to pronounce the fateful magic formula revealed by the guide?
Along Via di San Giovanni Decollato, past the church of the same name, we will then reach Piazza della Consolazione. There we will see the Tarpeian Rock, a rocky wall on the south side of the Capitol, from which those who were considered traitors and therefore sentenced to death were thrown. On to the Area Sacra di S.Omobono (Sacred Area of St. Omobono), where we will discover an often used vulgar saying and its origins. We will then move on to the Church of San Nicola in Carcere, whose structure is imprisoned between the ruins of three different Roman temples.
Finally, the "magic circle" will be closed where it all began: in Piazza Bocca della Verità'!
You will see the Foro Olitorio and Foro Boario and know why the two temples have been preserved in such an intact condition until now.
Do you want to know more about magic and mysterious rituals? All you have to do is book your place and join us for the next tour in the presence of the Velabro Valley!