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Marketplace of Medieval Rome

Originally this was just a grassy field with flowers (Campo de’ Fiori means just that), this square has been one of Rome’s vegetable and fruit market since the Middle Ages. It still is, vibrant with the cries of the vendors selling their wares. “Try these fresh peaches!”, says an elderly lady to me as I pass by. They do look good – they are deliciously sweet too.

“How about some fresh fish?” shouts a man on the nearby stall. They look as good as the fresh fish ready to be cooked in the restaurant where I always to eat my favorite pasta ‘Cacio e Pepe’, a truly Roman dish made with spaghetti, sheep’s cheese and fresh ground pepper. Simple and stunningly good. Which of course demands a crisp, dry, chilled white wine from Frascati to make you feel properly Roman.

Nearby lies the Cancelleria, a soaring palace built at the height of the Renaissance and once home to Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI. In fact both Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia were born here, in their mother’s house on the Campo.

Just up the street is the Villa Farnese, designed by Michelangelo for another family who became Popes, it is said because that future Pope’s sister was the mistress of Rodrigo Borgia himself.

At the other end of the Campo, with a flourish of time that takes you from one age to another just by turning a corner, in a place now lost but the form of which is still traced in the streets, lies the shadow of Pompey’s Theatre. Here it was, at its entrance, on those Ides of March, that Caesar was stabbed to death.

The time to visit the Campo is at sunset, when Rome’s students gather in the piazza outside the wine bars and at the feet of the statute of Giordano Bruno, to chat about the day’s events, drink an aperitif before dinner, play a guitar, court their paramours. Rome is like that.

Article and Photographs Copyright © Carl Ottersen