Il Campo de’ Fiori, Rome

January 30, 2009

When we used to go to Rome regularly, about twenty years ago, we would always spend time at the Campo de’ Fiori, the main market in central Rome. It had everything one could want: fabulous history, beautiful produce, friendly ambiance. It was the essence of picturesque without being kitsch. So naturally we were eager to go back this trip even though it was the middle of winter and we had heard about its decline etc. The morning of January 13, 2009 was cloudy and cold, threatening rain, but we went anyway.

There is no architectural plan for the square; Rome grew around it; it was kept open as a marketplace and for public executions. The statue of the philosopher Bruno Giordano dominates the middle. He was burned alive on the spot in 1600 for suggesting that the earth revolves around the sun.

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The local winter vegetables include salad greens.

Puntarelle are a local winter specialty. To prepare them, the hard, stringy and leafy parts are removed; the stalks are cut into thin strips which are then put into water; this softens the strips and makes them curl. They will usually be dressed with oil, lemon, garlic and, especially, anchovies. The point of the dish seems to be how the anchovies transform the bitterness into a delicious flavor. We found both unprepared and the pre-prepared puntarelle for sale.

There is a wide variety of other local winter vegetables.

Fresh broccoli arrives on a scooter.

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Dried fruits are useful in winter

The van with cheeses, salamis etc and the butcher van drive into the square in the morning. Their refrigeration wasn’t needed today.

This picturesque salumeria is on the edge of the market square. It looks like it has been there a long time.

A huge mortadella in the window of another shop.

There was only one fish stand that morning.

 

Pastas in many shapes were available as were mixes for many kinds of sauces.

A bakery window had a wide variety.

There were fresh cut flowers and plants.

One could buy wine or a wide variety of vinegars and oils.

Whatever you need to prepare and serve coffee or meals was available.

When we left the Campo de’ Fiori, we walked to the nearby Piazza Navona where Bernini’s famous four rivers fountain has just been refurbished. We stopped there for a coffee.

 

Four days later I went to what has become the biggest market in Rome, the Esquilino Market, near the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele southwest of the main train station. This has become an area with immigrant neighborhoods mixed in with traditional middle-class neighborhoods. The market was very crowded and I gave up trying to take photos after a few shots. There was an enormous variety and selection, both of Italian food and food from around the world. There was a constant thump of the big knives of the dozens of butchers cutting meat to order.
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I do not know if there is any real future for the Campo de’ Fiori faced with changing demographics and competition from the Esquilino Market and others in the suburbs. Of course, a day in mid-January is not typical. I’m sure that something will always be there for us tourists, but a market that has only one or two stalls offering most items will not be how we remember the Campo de’ Fiori.

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