Monday 19 February 2024

Rome: Campo de' Fiore Market, Forno and the Pantheon

Now that we are in grey wet Edinburgh, it is so easy to remember Rome as a burst of colour, crowds and good food.  No doubt this was helped by a week of sunshine.  But there is something larger than life about Rome.  Sylvia had decided we must go to the Campo de' Fiore Market in the old part of Rome.  So we hopped on a bus to make our way there.


I think this was the first stall we saw upon arriving.  Lots of oils and sauces and dubiously shaped bottles of all sorts of colours.  It was the first of quite a lot of similar stalls.  It was also our first experience of one of the stallholders making an effort to get us talking.  He asked where we were from and, when we said Melbourne, said knowingly that it was a city of a lot of rain.  Then he started to talk about the cricket and I remembered that quite a few matches were cancelled due to rain in early January before we left.

The next stall we saw was stacked with rows of truffle pastes, oils, powders and any way to eat truffle you could imagine.  We bought a box of truffle pastes and truffle oil for about 15 euros.  There were plenty of other truffle stores.  One had some lovely truffle, garlic and pesto powder.  The stallholder was charging 15 euros with sorrow at going so low.  When he asked me how much I expected to pay I said 5 euros.  This was about the Australian equivalent of what we had paid for the same brand of the same sized bottle of truffle powder in a supermarket back home.  We loved his version but did not buy.

Of course we tasted cheese.  Wonderful stinky aged cheese that came in huge wheels cut into slightly smaller wedges.  It would have been nice to buy but harder to find an opportunity to eat it when we were out most days.

The market had many vegetable stalls.  The top photo is a taster of the beautiful colours, shiny skins, vibrant leaves and amazing variety: tomatoes, eggplants, pumpkins, salad green, garlic, citrus, artichokes, chilli peppers and Romanescu broccoli.  As well as the individual tubs of vegetables, I was impressed at the tubs of vegetables cut up for minestrone such as the one above.

I'd never heard of puntarelle before I arrived in Rome.  So I was fascinated to see a stall that sold a tool to cut it into this curly wurly pile.

The same stall sold implements to cut vegies into these spirals.  I really wanted it but I settled for a little plastic piece that promised to make juicing lemons easier.

This was one of the more tempting stores with lots of beautifully-patterned crockery.  I resisted.

There were hats and hats and hats and some clothes.

And flowers.  Not a great picture of the flowers but it shows how the market was actually quite compact fitting into a city square: Campo de' Fiore, which literally translates as square of flowers.  I love how these European names often give insight into the history of the place.

Sylvia had also identified Forno Campo de' Fiore as the bakery for our lunch.  It is an unassuming doorway in a corner of the square near the flowers. 

Inside through the archway is a spread of baked goods both savoury and sweet.  A tyranny of choice. 

It is famous for its pizzas.  These are thin, simply topped pizzas that are sold by weight.  If you don't speak Italian the staff speak enough English to get by and they mainly need us to point at the pizza and then use our hands to indicate the size of the pizza we are after.  The knife hovers over the pizza ready to cut it and the server looks to us to again use our hands to indicate if it is too big, too small or just right.

Sylvia had a pizza with cherry tomatoes and cheese, after being tempted by the buratta and broccoli.  I went for the zucchini and cheese pizza.  The zucchini pizza was the amazing one.  So good that Sylvia went and got some for herself so we had some to take home.  We ate our lunch sitting on the edge of a fountain with no water overlooking the market which was bustling in the sunshine.  Glorious!

After we finished eating our pizza I saw a stall selling mulled wine.  It also sold fruit in cups but I was after the warm spicy wine (called Vin brulé in Italian).  It was delicious.  Though I found it so intense that I only drank half the cup.  Sylvia got a cup of strawberries, pineapple and melon. 

We walked along the beautiful streets of Rome stopping to sit in the Piazza Navona and admire its fountains and buildings.  It was a short walk from there to the Piazza della Rotonda where we had our first sight of the Parthenon.

The Parthenon (above) is a former Roman temple that in 609 AD became a Catholic Church.  It was founded between 27 and 25 BC by Marcus Agrippa, statesman and close friend of the Emperor Augustus.  After damage by fires, the Emperor Hadrian rebuilt it as it is today between 118 and 125 AD.  That makes it almost 2000 years old.  What a feat of architectural engineering!  History is written by its victors and so a Christian church in continuous use, survives intact today unlike many other ancient Roman buildings.

Standing under the front-facing columns of the portico stirred great awe in me at how far they reached up above me.  This was another of the historic buildings in Rome where children entered for free.  I was glad of that because Sylvia went inside in search of a seat rather than to appreciate the historic amazingness.

Once inside, the concrete dome dominates the round room emphasising the huge expanse of the building.  there are some pews near to the altar and a lot of space for tourists to stare upwards at the dome and try to fit the whole into their photos!

I joined the tourists wandering around the walls of the Parthenon.  The artwork and memorials were beautiful and interesting.  The signs giving information about them were long and demanded more time and energy than I had, especially with Sylvia waiting for me.  There is much to admire without reading too much.  The above sculpture was lovely for its gorgeous cheerful chubby baby Jesus in the arms of Mary and Joseph.  It was lovely for depicting the family as so loving and happy.

This tableau was lovely to gaze upon.

Yet again, I stumbled across a nativity scene that delighted me even though I did not quite understand the meaning behind it.

It surprised me to see the monument to Raphael.  I did a double take!  THE Raphael?  He is so famous I did not even know his surname.  (He is so famous a Teenage Ninja Turtle is named after him!)  I found out from the signs that his surname is Santi and that he was buried here in 1520 at his request.  A famous artist requesting to be buried here demonstrates how important this building was (is).  It was also the resting place for other artists and kings.    

At the altar is the copy of the 7th-century wooden icon of the Madonna with Child.  I was fascinated reading the information at the Parthenon about its importance and fragility but did not take any information away and cannot find out about it online. 

I was also interested in this sculpture.  The different representations of Jesus and Mary throughout history fascinate me.  In this statue, Jesus looks like a tiny adult rather than a child.


We came out of the Parthenon to hear a busker singing a stirring version of Ave Maria.  It was a fitting end to our visit.  Then we walked through Rome's streets and stumbled upon Gunther Gelato where I had an amazing chocolate and blue cheese gelato.  It was really good rich chocolate with just a hint of stinky blue cheese.  Then we got our bus back to our apartment.

1 comment:

  1. You really transported me to Rome in this post, Johanna! Markets (both open air and just supermarkets/stores) are my favorite thing to explore while traveling. The mulled wine and pizza-by-weight look fantastic. I'm glad you got a week of sunshine.


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