When you visit Rome, you will of course stop by Campo de’ Fiori, one of the most colorful and lively piazzas of the ancient city. Its name means field of flowers, because during the middle ages it was a meadow.
Now, it is home to a bustling fish, vegetable and flower market each morning except Sunday, and to a vibrant night life in evenings, with bars, cafes and trattorias lining the piazza and its side streets.
Campo de’ Fiori has a more popular feel than other Roman piazzas. Historically it was a commercial piazza, with the market drawing daily crowds and the main streets that lead to the piazza named after artisans – Via dei Baullari (coffer-makers), Via dei Cappellari (hat-makers), Via dei Chiavari (key-makers) and Via dei Giubbonari (tailors).
At the center of Campo de’ Fiori is a statue of Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher and Dominican Friar who was accused of heresy and burned to death in the piazza by the Roman Inquisition. The monument was originally supposed to be positioned so that Bruno’s face would be illuminated by the sun, and his back turned to the Vatican. In response to protests by the Catholic Church, city officials agreed to turn the statue so that Bruno faced Vatican City. As a result, his face is shadowed all day, adding to his ominous, scowling expression.
Visit the piazza in the early morning hours and peruse the open-air market. Take in the vegetables and seafood that are foreign to many of us, and listen with amusement at the locals exchange small talk and friendly jabs at one another.
In between, be sure to stop by the storied Forno Campo de’ Fiori for a piece of pizza rossa. Forno translates to “oven” but means bakery, and is where Italians buy bread and other baked goods. Usually, a forno will sell a few simple types of pizza. Piazza bianca (“white” pizza) is just pizza crust with salt and olive oil on top, while pizza rossa (“red” pizza) has a thin layer of tomato and a dash of olive oil on the pizza crust.
Forno Campo de’ Fiori is in a far corner of the piazza, behind the fountain. Follow Giordano Bruno’s gaze, or if you happen to come when the baking is happening, just follow your nose. It is packed at all hours of the day, a tribute to its fame and the quality of its baked goods.
Pizza is baked on long trays, and then cut into pieces as large or small as the customer requests. When it is your turn, hold your hands up in the air parallel to one another, approximating the size of pizza you want. You may be asked if you want your pizza aperta (open) or pieghata (folded). It is easier to handle and less messy when folded. It will come served to you in butcher paper for easy eating.
Pizza rossa is another perfect example of the simplicity of Italian food. Just a few ingredients artfully put together make a delicious mid-day snack.