If you want a peaceful place to sit and watch the world (and the trash trucks) go by, you can’t beat the little bar in elegant Piazza Farnese. If you’re looking for bustle and energy, head for Campo de’ Fiori.
7:30 a.m. – Campo de’ Fiori means “field of flowers,” and when it was named in the Middle Ages, it was a meadow. Today the only flowers you see are those sold by the flower vendors at the northern end of the cobblestone-covered piazza. In the early morning, the flower vendors aren’t there. No one is there, except the pigeons and the statue of Giordano Bruno, a philosopher who was burned at the stake for heresy in Campo de’ Fiori in 1600. The piazza is clean and quiet. It won’t be this way for the rest of the day.
8:30 a.m. – Vendors have nearly finished setting up their stalls for the farmers market, which began operating in 1869. For some gorgeous photos of the fruits, vegetables, pasta, and other goodies at the market, go to French Basketeer. The second photo from the top is of the farmer from whom I bought my pots of herbs: rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, and verbena (I think). Don’t the photos make you drool?
I usually walk into the market at its northwestern corner, the home of the great Forno Campo de’ Fiori, which is deservedly famous and mentioned in nearly any guidebook or website that talks about Roman cooking. That’s where I often buy pastry for breakfast and pizza for lunch. The forno is especially known for its divine pizza bianca—pizza dough brushed with olive oil and baked in a woodburning oven. This morning I watched the baker making pizza bianca. The pizza was three or four feet long and about a foot wide. I didn’t see it go into the oven, but when it came out, it was cut into slabs and placed in bakery cases waiting for customers to tell the server how much they wished to buy. Yum!
Noon – In the middle of the day, Campo de’ Fiori is full of people eating fruit cups bought from many of the fruit and vegetable stands. Some vendors make fruit cups to order; others make them ahead of time. Fruit cups are cheaper than eating at the expensive restaurants on the piazza and good for you as well.
2 p.m. – It’s time for a little shopping at Ruggeri at the southwest end of the piazza. This deli has the best deal going on a decent Montepulciano—$4 a bottle! It also sells the most wonderful pecorino I’ve ever tasted—Pecorino Montanaro—from Sicily. I don’t usually like pecorino, but this is a welcome exception. I learned about this cheese because I asked the server to recommend one to me. Home run! When I went back to buy more Pecorino Montanaro, I asked for another cheese recommendation and the same server sold me Puzzoni di Moena. I won’t buy that one again—we didn’t like it.
4 p.m. – Nothing’s better on a hot day than a cold drink, and no place is more fun for that than one of the 15 or so restaurants that line all sides of Campo de’ Fiori. We try to find one on the shady side of the street. As you know, Michael and I stopped at one of them Saturday and learned about Aperol Spritz. We also learned something else:
Everyday at around 4 p.m., the market closes for the day. The vendors precariously pile all of their leftovers on ape (wee trucks with just three wheels), collapse their stands and umbrellas and pile them on hand carts, and haul everything away to storage areas strewn through the nearby streets.
Shockingly, when the market closes, the vendors leave behind mounds of trash and not in trashcans! Walking through the piazza is treacherous because it’s so slippery with spoiled vegetables and fruits and their juices, not to mention the hazards of stacks of wooden and cardboard boxes. It’s just awful! Imagine some tourist coming to Campo de’ Fiori for the first time around 4 p.m. and wondering what the heck happened!
But not to worry—my trash brigade is on its way! At 4 p.m. on the dot, trash collectors swarm to the campo. Several trash collectors throw trash into two compactors—one for paper trash and one for everything else—and the cutest little truck vacuums what the collectors miss and washes the cobblestones. The crew work like beavers for an hour or so, and when they’re done, not one piece of trash remains! The street is so clean you could eat off of it (and pigeons do), although I don’t recommend it. I can’t imagine this happening in large cities in the United States.
6 p.m. – The trash collectors stop for a gelato cone from Blue Ice down the street from Campo de’ Fiori (I think this custom is so cute!). Blue Ice is a chain, sort of like Dairy Queen, although it looks like a traditional gelateria. The gelato isn’t bad, but I like the artisanal gelato better.
Norcineria Viola, on the southeast side of the piazza, has been selling only one thing—pork—since 1890. Prosciutto, salami, guanciale, pancetta, testa di maiale (the sausage encased in a pig’s head)—they’re all there, as are uncooked pork chops and sausages and hundreds of other things. Saturday we bought guanciale, which is unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig jowls or cheeks, and made Bucatini All’Amatriciana Sunday night. I’ve only had the recipe made with American bacon because it’s difficult to find guanciale in the United States. Using guanciale makes this pasta a completely different and much heartier dish. I can see why it’s a specialty in Rome!
9 p.m. – Hordes of young people and vendors of all sorts descend on Campo de’ Fiori, especially on the weekend. Although it’s sometimes difficult to make your way through the crowds, it’s usually energizing and fun.
So that’s Campo de’ Fiori. Never a dull moment!
P.S., Yesterday I had a Sanbittèr Rosso, and it was yummy. It tasted like pine trees smell and was bitter and sweet at the same time. It was served with lots of ice (how rare!) and a wedge of lemon. I’ll have it again soon.
P.P.S., If you’re looking for a place to eat in Campo de’ Fiori, choose Obikà Mozzarella Bar. It’s the only restaurant in the piazza that isn’t a tourist trap. Yummy food, delicious and interesting drinks, and lots of locals.