Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, May 27, 2011

RST Top 40: #4: Campo de' Fiori at Sunrise

market stalls opening up in the Campo
Campo de’ Fiori, in the heart of old Rome, has a storied history but we are ambivalent about its present.

The large piazza is named after the meadow of flowers that once occupied the land there, now replaced with an equally colorful, bustling market place much of the day. At night, it is a lightning rod for drunken young people of all nationalities, and a scourge of much of the neighborhood.

Still, how can one not be seduced by a piazza where a church heretic was burned at the stake (see our earlier post on Giordano Bruno - and the interesting comment to that post)? Where the cry for Italy’s independence was most heartfelt (think Tahrir Square)? Where Romans once built theaters?

bread coming out of the ovens at 5 a.m.
For us, the magic of Campo de' Fiori was restored when we scootered into it one weekday morning at 5 a.m. – to watch the market stalls being set up, the bakery bread being readied for the ovens. One could see, smell and feel the authenticity of a true market square.

And so, Campo de’ Fiori – at 5 a.m. anyway – makes our Rome the Second Time’s Top 40 at #4.


PS – see also the University of Washington Rome Center’s lovely view over the piazza to St. Peter's in our post, Campo di UW.


Marilyn said...

The great Nobel Laureate poet Czeslaw Milosz wrote a great poem in 1943 entitled "Campo dei Fiori," juxtaposed against the burning of the Warsaw Ghetto. Here it is translated from the Polish.

Campo dei Fiori

By Czeslaw Milosz 1911–2004

Translated By Louis Iribarne and David Brooks

In Rome on the Campo dei Fiori
baskets of olives and lemons,
cobbles spattered with wine
and the wreckage of flowers.
Vendors cover the trestles
with rose-pink fish;
armfuls of dark grapes
heaped on peach-down.

On this same square
they burned Giordano Bruno.
Henchmen kindled the pyre
close-pressed by the mob.
Before the flames had died
the taverns were full again,
baskets of olives and lemons
again on the vendors' shoulders.

I thought of the Campo dei Fiori
in Warsaw by the sky-carousel
one clear spring evening
to the strains of a carnival tune.
The bright melody drowned
the salvos from the ghetto wall,
and couples were flying
high in the cloudless sky.

At times wind from the burning
would drift dark kites along
and riders on the carousel
caught petals in midair.
That same hot wind
blew open the skirts of the girls
and the crowds were laughing
on that beautiful Warsaw Sunday.

Someone will read as moral
that the people of Rome or Warsaw
haggle, laugh, make love
as they pass by the martyrs' pyres.
Someone else will read
of the passing of things human,
of the oblivion
born before the flames have died.

But that day I thought only
of the loneliness of the dying,
of how, when Giordano
climbed to his burning
he could not find
in any human tongue
words for mankind,
mankind who live on.

Already they were back at their wine
or peddled their white starfish,
baskets of olives and lemons
they had shouldered to the fair,
and he already distanced
as if centuries had passed
while they paused just a moment
for his flying in the fire.

Those dying here, the lonely
forgotten by the world,
our tongue becomes for them
the language of an ancient planet.
Until, when all is legend
and many years have passed,
on a new Campo dei Fiori
rage will kindle at a poet's word.

Warsaw, 1943

maxbjr said...

Enjoyed the photo. The Campo dei Fiori is our little slice of heaven and not being there is a lingering heartache. Early sunday morning with the sun rising as you face Bruno is perhaps the only quiet time that exixts in the Campo. Not for farm fed visitors.