Campo dei Fiori has the lucky and unlucky distinction of being at the tourist heart of Rome, halfway between Piazza del Popolo in the north and the Coliseum in the south. I doubt many of you have visited Rome and not passed through this famous square, especially if you had the opportunity to study in Rome. Campo is a thriving market during the day and then the center of study abroad nightlife once the sun goes down.
The name of the square itself means field of flowers because during Roman times this square was constantly flooded creating a lovely meadow here. In the middle ages however, the square took on a darker history and became a center for executions. The history of these executions still lives on in the giant statue that dominates the square. The man is Giordano Bruno and he was a Dominican priest, a mathematician, philosopher, and he wrote over 20 books in his short lifetime. Unfortunately he was all of this during the reformation and counter reformation which was not the most liberal of times.
He also decided to write some inflammatory statements about the nature of Jesus and the fact that Mary could not be a virgin because Father and Son are never equal therefore Jesus was not God and Mary was not a virgin. Blasphemy! So the church obviously had it out for him. They finally caught up with him in 1523 and tortured him until they finally sentenced him to be burned at the stake in February 1600. Yes that is right, they tortured him for 7 years to recant his writings; he was some stubborn bastard.
Perhaps you can tell how stubborn he was by the fact that he has a statue commemorating him, a heretic. The statue was put up in 1889 after Rome was unified with the rest of Italy and the church lost its political power. The secular government approved the statue to be placed where he was burned and coincidentally Bruno’s gaze is directed straight at the people who executed him, the Vatican.
While the square has an unhappy history today it is a lively place to gather in the heart of Rome and the surrounding area is also as well. It is also very well connected to the rest of the city with most buses and trams stopping near the square.
Here are our favorite places in and around the neighborhood of Campo dei Fiori:
Osteria da Fortunata on Via del Pellegrino
Osteria da Fortunata is perhaps one of the most authentic and legit Italian restaurants we have found in Rome. We have eaten at a lot of amazing places but this one takes the cake in terms of authenticity. You know when you imagine a small hole in the wall restaurant where the grandma is making pasta in the back while her grandson takes orders; well you have found it here. The menu changes daily based on what ingredients they found at the market and they only make a small selection of dishes. The only problem with this restaurant is that if you show up later, when most Italians eat, they may be out of certain dishes, but everything is so delicious it won’t be a problem. I promise.
Rosso Pomodoro on Via Largo di Torre Argentina
Rosso Pomodoro is located just outside Campo dei Fiori and is a great chain restaurant. It might be weird to be suggesting a chain restaurant in Italy but this place is great. It is one of those restaurants where you only see Italians eating there. Italians generally do not eat at chains so this one is a good one people. They specialize in Neapolitan cuisine and they have great pizza, obviously. The best part of Rosso Pomodoro is that they have a side to go window next to the theater. It is a great spot to grab a lunch and enjoy the ruins across the street or head to Sant’Andrea della Valle and enjoy the people watching.
Obika in Campo dei Fiori
Normally I would not recommend eating in a main square but this seems to be the neighborhood for contradictions. Obika is a mozzarella bar, that’s right a MOZZARELLA bar. If you want fresh mozzarella, burrata or smoked mozzarella this is your place. They get it fresh from Naples everyday and offer it in a wide variety of preparations. Here you can have fresh burrata with prosciutto di parma or you can dig into their homemade lasagna made with the best cheese in the world. The restaurant has a cool modern vibe and on gorgeous nights you can grab a table out on the piazza and soak it all in.
Panino Place next to Baffetto 2
So we cannot for the life of us remember the name of this place but it has amazing panini. They let you build your own so you can make any combination. I am pretty traditional/have no imagination so I usually stick with the classics like mozzarella and tomatoes or sometimes I add some prosciutto. Alex likes to get a little more creative and adds all the toppings including truffles….. Who doesn’t like truffles? It is definitely worth checking out.
Open Baladin on Via degli Specchi
We have talked about Open Baladin before when talking about our favorite beer places in Rome but thought it was worth the mention again. If you are looking for a great place that specializes in Italian microbrews than this is your place. Also they have insanely good garlic fries, occasionally you just need a break from Italian food.
Aperitivo in Campo dei Fiori
The square is a great place to grab an aperitivo, in part for all the options but also for the people watching. There are plenty of options of aperitivo in the square but one of my favorites is at Baccanale, located on the corner of the square when you enter from Corso Vittoro Emanuele. They have an awesome selection of food, both hot and cold, so that is always a plus. The drinks are good too and reasonably priced. If you miss out on aperitivo hour don’t worry they also have a panini to go window for those late night hunger attacks.
Another great hangout spot is actually the Ponte Sisto bridge between Campo dei Fiori and Trastevere. Here you will find locals and expats alike wandering the bridge, meeting up for a drink or staking out a spot for a beautiful view of the Vatican at night. This is definitely a great way to bridge your nightlife in Rome too, start with dinner at Obika then head to Ponte Sisto to meet up with some friends; migrate to Piazza Trilusa for some seated beer drinking and then pop on over for some chocolate shots. Perfect evening 🙂 Just keep your wits about you on the bridge; it tends to attract pickpockets and drug salesmen.
Palazzo Farnese is located just behind Campo dei Fiori and used to be the city palace of the Farnese family. Today the building is actually the French Embassy; the building was rented out to the French by Mussolini at the very low price of 1lira a month. When the Italians switched to the euro the price rose by 2000% and they now pay 1euro a month for the building. In the piazza surrounding Palazzo Farnese there are two identical fountains designed by Bernini which are affectionately coined the bathtubs due to their well bathtub shape. The tubs are actually from the Baths of Caracalla whose ruins are just south of the Circo Massimo and were designed by Bernini to look like they were floating.
Via Giulia is the street just behind Piazza Farnese and is absolutely picturesque with its overhead bridge and dripping ivy. The street was originally conceived by Pope Julius II as a grand redevelopment of Rome, especially in the medieval center. Pope Julius II hired Bramante to build the road and it actually runs in a straight line, which is somewhat of a miracle in Rome. Unfortunately like most grand projects in Rome this one was not completed and even the bridge, which was designed by Michelangelo, is not completed either. It is still a beautiful street to explore and keep an eye out for the Madonelle, or the paintings of the Virgin Mary placed all over to protect the streets.
*Note the water fountain just behind Piazza Farnese on Via Giulia is probably the only fountain in Rome I would suggest NOT drinking from. One it looks all green and scummy and it also has lead pipes…..
So there you have it our suggestions for the neighborhood of Campo dei Fiori though there is plenty more to explore here. Don’t be afraid to just pick a small alley and wander down it. The medieval streets in this area were meant for exploration! Have you spent time in Campo dei Fiori? What were your favorite places?