Fascinating Piazza Farnese

Fresco on the southwest corner of Piazza Farnese

When guidebooks happen to mention Piazza Farnese, and many don’t, they usually give it a backhanded compliment such as, “It’s a pretty little piazza but not very interesting.” The guidebook writers obviously haven’t visited Piazza Farnese in the morning.

Casa di Santa Brigida

I walk through the Piazza Farnese every day because it’s the fastest route to Campo de’ Fiori and points east of our apartment. Farnese has a good restaurant (Osteria ar Galletto), and maybe more when stores reopen in September; a great bar (Caffé Farnese); the French Embassy; the Casa di Santa Brigida, which honors St. Bridget of Sweden and appears to be occupied by nuns of her order; our landlady’s apartment; a couple of old fountains from the Baths of Caracalla; and a few colorful old palaces. Tourists usually walk into the square, look around, and walk right back out—unless they’re French, and then they take pictures of the embassy.

Caffé Farnese

I love Caffé Farnese and often stop during the day for a Coke (con ghiaccio, per favore—with ice, please) or a cappuccino (molto caldo, per favore—extra hot, please) and in the evening for a prosecco (Italy’s sparkling wine) and nibbles. But my favorite time at Caffé Farnese is in the morning, because Piazza Farnese is fascinating then! I enjoy the activities there so much that I usually order TWO cappuccinos (molto caldo, per favore).

Trash collectors

Because many of the streets in Centro Storico (historical center) are so narrow and twisty, vehicles that drive there must be quite small. Cars, taxis, delivery trucks, buses—they’re all tiny. My favorite toy vehicle is the garbage truck. Garbage trucks and I are well acquainted because they’re out in force during my morning walks. They come in several sizes, but my favorites are small and smaller. Many women work as trash collectors, and all trash collectors seem to drive and collect trash with one hand while talking on a cell phone with the other hand. Trash collectors wear colorful maroon uniforms (to match the trucks) with bright orange rubber leggings. I’ve often wondered how these tiny vehicles can possibly collect much trash. Now I know!

Small garbage truck, compactor, smaller garbage truck

In the morning in Piazza Farnese, right in front of the French Embassy, a medium-sized mobile trash compactor services an endless parade of garbage trucks. Trash collectors pull up to the compactor, remove the shovel and broom from the back of the garbage truck, back up to the compactor, tip the dumpster into the compactor, pull forward, retrieve the shovel and broom, chat a while with the compactor guy (in Piazza Farnese this is usually a guy—I don’t know if they all are), and drive off for another load. The French Embassy occupies the beautiful old Farnese Palace, and I’m amazed that the French allow this noisy and odiferous garbage activity right under their windows!

French Embassy

So in the morning on Piazza Farnese we have wee garbage trucks—lots of wee garbage trucks. We have wee limos dropping off important people at the French Embassy. We have wee delivery trucks dropping bananas, eggs, milk, and fruit off at the restaurants and bars on the piazza. We have nuns leaving and returning to St. Bridget’s, some of them taking trash to the compactor. We have MY wee bus, the 116 (but more about that in future blog), scooting back and forth. We have pigeons—we ALWAYS have pigeons. We have people scurrying to work, people walking their dogs, and tourists. I could watch this all day!


But today after an hour or so, it got hot and I got hungry, so I walked around the corner to a wonderful forno (bakery) in Campo de’ Fiori and got an ungherese (a Hungarian pastry) and came home. Simply delightful!

If you come for a visit, plan on a morning at Piazza Farnese drinking cappuccino and watching the garbage trucks. I know you’ll enjoy it.


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