Campo de' Fiori: where to go and where to eat
Wonders and flavours of a Rome to savour
Whether you are in Campo de’ Fiori for just a few days, or a lifetime, don’t miss taking a juicy bite out of the city by walking through town and stopping to buy seasonal fruit at the wooden stalls or having a coffee or drink in one of the many bars surrounding the Piazza. By day, it is the vegetable market, and by night, the restaurants and pubs that attract many young people, liven up whole neighbourhood, making this piazza so picturesque and characteristic: the atmosphere is always vibrant and lively and, at any time of the day or night, there is always something to do or see.
Campo de’ Fiori owes its name to a wonderful field of flowers where animals grazed until the 1400s. Now it has at least four restaurants on each side that are ready to adapt to the schedules and needs of the customers. Sixteen in all, they offer a pleasant breakfast in the sun, typical Roman lunches, elaborate appetizers or romantic dinners, and after-dinner music.
One of these is the old bakery that has occupied the same spot for 200 years. Every day, it attracts numerous foreigners and discerning citizens of Rome who are dying to taste the slices of pizza, always hot and fresh from the oven; there is "Carbonara", the only restaurant that has been in the Piazza for more than a hundred years; there is the ancient norcinera Viola, established in 1890 and famous for its cured hams, salamis, sausages and pork cheek, made with artisan techniques to entice the most discerning palates with typical products of Lazio and Umbria; and the Cinema Farnese, which has been presenting theatre since the thirties and later cinema.
Campo de’ Fiori has the distinction of being the only historic square in Rome with no church. Despite this, the square has always been inhabited by powerful families and central to the life of Rome as a place for business and leisure. In the seventeenth century, executions took place there.
In the immediate vicinity is a maze of alleys where, if you are lucky, you’ll be lost in a walk that will reveal Rome’s hidden side. Leaving Campo de’ Fiori, on the Cinema Farnese side, is Piazza del Biscione where the first thing to grab the eye is the large ancient butcher shop that specializes in chicken, lamb and giblets. Inside is a huge counter where customers can see the animals still to be butchered, recalling the Piazza’s most popular tradition.
From the Piazza there is a tiny secret passage that only few people know about, leading to the Piazza dei Satiri. In the area around Campo de’ Fiori, the streets are filled with traditional shops that still bear the names of the artisans who once worked there: Via Giubbonari, Via dei Baullari or Via dei Cappellari. On Via dei Giubbonari, to the left, is a slightly uphill trapezoid-shaped piazza with a small church built in 1100, and which, to all intents and purposes, seems like a miniature of a church. It is called the Church of Santa Barbara ai librai (booksellers) on Largo dei Librai, which was left abandoned and desecrated throughout the twentieth century, was restored in 1982 and today is a real gem. The street is also home to the historic Roscioli delicatessen that has been running since 1824, and is a "must" for lovers of good food. It is a salumeria during office hours with regional delicacies of all kinds, and turns into a great restaurant for lunch and dinner, always guaranteeing the best selection of Italian food and wine.
On Via dei Baullari, once a street of artisans who produced trunks, the clothing store Baullà and the curio and antique store Antiquesse are worth visiting.
On Via dei Cappellari, there are still artisan shops today, but they no longer sell hats. Today, it is jewellery and hand-decorated porcelain, but what really deserves attention is an effigy on top of a very old building with an inscription that reads, "On January 3, 1698, in this house Pietro Trapassi was born, known to the world by the name of Metastasio." History oozes from every hidden corner.
Behind Campo dei Fiori, there is the small Piazza della Quercia, distinctive for its lovely oak at the centre, with bare branches in winter and deep green leaves in spring. Facing it, and almost a part of it, is Piazza Capo di Ferro, where the Palazzo Spada is located. The building, now the seat of the Council of State, is worth a visit because inside, there is the masterpiece of trompe-l'oeil by Borromini. In a single year between 1652 and 1653, Borromini created his false perspective, in which, thanks to a sequence of columns that decrease in height and the floor that rises, create the optical illusion of a 37 meter long gallery, when in fact it is only slightly longer than 8 meters. Finally, the sculpture at the end of the gallery that appears to be life-size is actually only 60 cm high. It would be a shame to leave the area without seeing this architectural masterpiece.
The day should end with a meal outdoors to fully enjoy the atmosphere of our city and typical Roman cuisine. In the beautiful Piazza de’ Ricci is Ristorante Pierluigi, established in 1938, and offering excellent fish to delight the palate.
Under the blue sky of a beautiful sunny day, visitors can be entranced by a setting of Renaissance palaces and enjoy delicious spaghetti with clams or fresh fish. Before returning to Campo de’ Fiori, follow Via di Montserrat and cross Piazza Farnese, where, in front of the French Embassy, you can enjoy a good coffee at the bar in the corner, and admire the splendid Palazzo Farnese.