Campo de Fiori is bustling piazza located just south of the Piazza Navona in Rome, which l have written about before. It borders the districts of Parione and Regola. It has become a must visit destination for tourists, both day and night, much to the annoyance of the locals that reside there.
There is an open air market that takes place daily. The aroma of bread, freshly made and taken out of the oven fills the air as the square comes alive. It’s quite interesting listening to the fishmongers jostling for attention with their song like invitations to their counter for fresh fish.
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Campo de Fiori history:
The name Campo de Fiori was given to this plaza in the middle ages when it was just a meadow used for agricultural purposes. It’s central location makes it quite convenient to many touristy areas of Rome, like the Pantheon, Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Piazza Venezia. No need for buses or trains, as they are walkable. Campo de Fiori means “field of flowers” in English. Campo de Fiori has a very dark history.
The square was used as the place for public executions. People, mostly criminals, were hanged, thrown in vats of boiling oil, or killed in other gruesome ways. In those days, the Catholic church regarded itself as the supreme power. Anyone who dared speak out against the church either had to recant their story and acknowledge the church’s power, or they faced execution for their “heresy”.
One such person who defied the church was a philosopher by the name of Giordano Bruno. Bruno was an Italian Dominican friar, mathematician, poet and astrologer. Among his many claims was that the universe was infinite and could have no celestial body at it’s center. He also dared to suggest that the distant planets could have life of their own!. The cheeky bastard :-).
Find the best Hotels in Rome close to Campo de Fiori
The church was having none of that of course. The Roman Inquisition tried him for denying the Catholic doctrines, including the divinity of Christ and the Virginity of Mary. He was found guilty as charged for heresy, and in 1600, he was burned alive at the stake right in the Campo de Fiori. His fame grew considerably after his death and he is now regarded as a martyr for science. His works were placed in the Index of Forbidden Books by the Holy Office.
The monument that still stands in the square today was dedicated by Ettore Ferrari, an Italian sculptor in 1889 . It is in the exact spot of his death. There is an inscription at the base of the sculptor that reads: A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE. This translates to mean “to Bruno – the century predicted by him – here where the fire burned”. I think it’s cool that the statue is facing towards the Vatican, as if to say “in your face!” :-).
The medallions on the pedestal are of relief busts of eight other heretics and free thinkers like Czech philosopher and priest Jan Hus and English theologian and preacher John Wycliffe. I am positive l wouldn’t have survived back then. I surely would have been killed for sure for speaking out against so many, many things ;-)
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Campo dei Fiori Roma before Bruno:
Prior to the statue of Bruno being erected, it was the site of a fountain known as the Fontana della Terrina, which used to supply fresh water to the area. It was then moved to the piazza in front of the Chiesa Nuovo church and a copy of it was left at the Campo de Fiori. The street names surrounding Campo de Fiori are quite interesting. They are named for tradesmen as the area has always been a place for commercial purposes.
It was never really developed, thanks for it being prone to flooding due to it’s closeness to the Tiber river. The names range from Via dei Giubbonari (tailors street), Via dei Cappellari (hat makers) and Via dei Chiavari (key makers). As a kid, Federico’s father used to hang around this area a lot because he was born and raised not too far away.
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The square came under the possession of the Pope and became part of the Pope’s Road when it was linked to the Basilica of St. John. A lot of wealthy people moved into the area thanks to that little bit of fortune.
Shops, hotels and inns were built around the square. The square became a horse market, among other things several times a week. Nowadays, there are lovely little boutique shops occupying the same places that once housed the craftsmen. Immigrants often set up shop illegally in the area too, selling imitation designer bags and other accessories until they’re chased away by the cops. An every day cat and mouse game. A lot of the hotels still stand and host tons of tourists.
Some of the housing in the area were demolished in the 1850’s and by 1869, Campo de Fiori morphed into the daily vegetable and fish market that it is today. You can find in addition to those, lots of souvenirs, prepackaged pasta, olive oil etc. to bring back home from your trip. Some are quite overpriced, so be sure and check around. They count on your excitement.
Campo de Fiori Rome nightlife:
At night, the square goes through another transformation as it becomes a gathering place for tourists looking for a bite to eat or drink. The city dwellers also use it a gathering spot to sit, socialize or catch a movie at the Farnese theater right in the square.
The restaurants spill out into the square and it can get very full, very quickly, almost to the point of it being overwhelming. I do advise you to be cautious. It is quite easy to become a victim of pickpockets. Drunken fights also break out on an almost nightly basis. During football season, it’s even worse. If you are familiar with soccer, you know how fanatical the fans can be :-). Imagine living in this area, and having to put up with the noise pollution day and night, the yelling, the police sirens deep in the night.
The prices are pretty high too for those flats! Federico translated a sign that read “If l catch you peeing here, l will stab you”. It’s safe to say the residents are totally exhausted. The police are fighting a losing battle. There is increased police presence at night now that we have noticed the past few times, and it seems to be getting better, but we’re never out that late. Age ;-).
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Where to eat in Campo de Fiori Rome?
There are some really great places to eat in and around Campo de Fiori, including:
Filetti di Baccala: (Awesome baccala restaurant in Camp de Fiori)
Arguably the best hole in the wall place you will ever eat at. It is not fancy at all. All they do is salted and fried cod-fish, a staple of the Roman kitchen. They have been there for a very long time. Baccala used to be poor people’s food, much like ox tail. It was the food that the rich threw out and the butchers sold for peanuts. The poor people experimented with the various food and made something delicious from the “crap”.
Slowly, but surely, they became good enough for everyone, including the rich. Good luck trying to find ox tail cheaply now..sigh.. I digress. The baccala is fried in thick batter and stays very moist on the inside. Try it with a side of the fried zucchini. It is located on Largo dei Librari, just steps away from the Campo de Fiori, on a tiny little street. If you see the little church straight ahead, you’re right there!
We just usually get it to go, and keep walking, but there is seating inside. My husband has eaten there since he was a kid, as did his father and mother before him. It’s good! I love the baccala, but l am not a zucchini lover like him. Every time we visit his family, he always has to bring back zucchini flower :-).
Aristocampo: Restaurant in Campo de Fiori Rome
Absolutely one of the best places in Rome for sandwiches! They use the freshest ingredients from different areas of Italy. The portions are very adequate and the prices decent. My favorite is the pork sandwich. They get their pork from Ariccia, located in the hills of the Lazio region of Rome. Ariccia is famous for herb and wild fennel slow roasted pork. Served on freshly made bread, it’s heavenly.
I only wish l had taken a picture, but trust me, it’s good! I promise to on the next visit. Sometimes, you just want to eat, take in the atmosphere, just enjoy the moment, and not reach for the camera. I had pictures from prior visits of some of these places, but we now realize they are back in Houston, in storage.
One of the most famous restaurants in Rome. It is frequented by locals and tourists alike. Federico gives the Roman seal of approval. Very authentic Italian food with fresh pasta, and he should know. His old family business was making and supplying fresh pasta to restaurants. He loves the gnocchi, a mixture of potato and flower pasta. Gnocchi is my least favorite of all the different kinds of Italian pasta :-(.
The service leaves much to be desired if you are expecting an American level of service. This is the “normal” service in a lot of European countries though. Malta was the same, and Spain definitely is the same. I am still getting used to it, but l almost prefer it in some ways.
Campo de Fiori is a delightful little area of Rome that should be visited. It’s hard to miss anyway, as you’re bound to run into it while visiting other destination sites. It should be enjoyed for what it is, a cheery market and meeting place, but also remembered for its past. A place of death where free thinkers paid with their lives for disobedience of the church.
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Have you ever been to Rome? did you visit Campo de Fiori? If yes, did you like it? If not, do you think you would you care to visit it?