VENICE ITALY FACTS: A MOUTH TO REPORT YOUR WORSE ENEMY!
Walking around the streets of Venice or Verona you might chance upon some strange faces protruding from the walls with their wide mouths open… It’s not always easy to notice them, sometimes they are hidden and might be confused with one of the many bas reliefs that are also everywhere in the two cities!
But these are neither common decorations nor original symbols belonging to some noble family, as one might imagine.
Their most peculiar characteristics are their almost intimidating stern expression and the big opening that serves as their mouths; the latter was used by citizens to leave reports about other people of the Republic.
These peculiar “mail boxes”, where people could leave messages for the local judges, were called “Boche per le Denunzie Segrete” (mouths for secret reports) or even “Boche de lèon” (Lion mouths) since they often depicted a lion’s face with gnashing teeth.
When someone wanted to report someone else, they had to show evidence of what they said, therefore the report couldn’t be anonymous. The person who wrote the report needed at least three witnesses for the report to be considered and examined by the judges.
There were different types of offences that could be reported, from tax evasion or smuggling to the worst one: betrayal of the State!
Today, the “Boche per le Denunzie” are the most fascinating pieces of heritage we have of the Italian way of life during the XII Century; and for us of course they are a great inspiration for team-building games!
Well… we will give you a few tips: if you are around Venice with your friends or family, look for S. Maria della Visitazione Church on Zattere, in Dorsoduro. There you will find a face with a wide-open mouth and a furrowed brow and you will see an engraving reading: “DENUNCIE CONTRA LA SANITÁ PER EL SESTIER DE OSSO DURO” (Reports against public health in the Dorsoduro district).
Or, if you are in the center of Verona, look around Piazza dei Signori, specifically on via Dante Alighieri. Here you will see the mouth which received reports “CONTRO USURARI” (against usurers).
Finally, here is the last little tip to make your journey more exciting and make your team spirit stronger: split your group into teams and decide what crime to report. Write your accusation on a piece of paper (don’t forget about the witnesses!). Finally, decide who is going to be the impartial judge who will decide if the charge bears truth…