I could sense the excitement before I even turned the corner and headed into the square. People zipped around holding market bags filled with green, red, and purple surprises. Delivery men carried crates of freshly picked things that seemed to creep out the top and sides. Slow-walking Romans ambled down the sides of the cobbled streets as colorful Vespas owned the middle. We all were headed for the same place.
Once I turned the corner into the square, the morning sunshine hit my face – a reprieve from the crisp December air that had turned my cheeks red. I took a deep breath and smiled at the sight before me. White tents in all directions.
We’d arrived at Campo de Fiori – Rome’s oldest farmer’s market.
If you’ve been following this site for long, you know that I am market-crazy. Markets are always the first place I want to go when I arrive in a new place. Land at airport. Go through customs. Put things down at hotel/hostel/apartment. Go find market and figure out all the secrets.
Markets really are where a chunk of the cultural mystery about a new place can be decoded. Find out what people are eating and you’ll begin to understand life in a foreign place. What flavors are important? What kind of food is being prepared?
I find that this is true at all markets, but it is especially true at Campo de Fiori. Not only are there as many local and typically Italian ingredients as you can imagine, but you can also find handmade and locally produced products like olive oil and pasta and wine and vinegars and spices… I could go on and on.
I took my time gliding between tents so I was sure to see everything for sale. I imagined the dishes I would make if I could take it all home with me and work in the kitchen right then. (yes we had rented an apartment via AirBnB and I technically could cook, but I wanted to spend my day exploring…) Even without the time to cook, I enjoyed the scents and colors on display. The reds of peppers and chiles and radishes. The orange of clementines and grapefruits.
Some of the most interesting things at the market were the greens. Greens that looked like sculptures instead of salads….
In addition to all of the amazing food options, there is also a flower market in Campo de Fiori. And contrary to what it may sound like, the name of the market has nothing to do with this flower selection. (Campo de Fiori translates to Field of Flowers. The square was originally a meadow which is how it got it’s name) During the holiday season, the flower section was gussied up with all kinds of festive decorations for sale. Red everywhere!
But my favorite – my MOST favorite – thing at the market were the ARTICHOKES. Growing up in California, artichokes were common on my dinner table and were even grown in our backyard garden. Seeing the volume and variety at Campo de Fiori only reminded me of how much I enjoy a good artichoke. There were so many sizes and colors. Some on the stem, some trimmed. Some big and some small.
And I had never seen so many PURPLE ARTICHOKES in my life! I took way too many photos of this perfectly delicious and perfectly Roman vegetable. I subject you now to said photos.
This market made me a very happy traveler. It for sure is a must for any visitor to Rome – it will give you a sense of place, a sense of palate, and a sense of what you should expect on your menus. After visiting myself, I was even more excited (if that is even possible) about lunch. And dinner. And breakfast, snack #1, and snack #2. And maybe snack #3.
And let’s be honest. Any market that sells mulled wine is a good market in my book!
Have you been Campo de Fiori market? Did you love it as much as I did?