We were so thankful to wake up in a comfortable hotel it was hard to get up early and sight see. After lounging for awhile we decided to get downstairs, take advantage of the free breakfast (includes cappuccino) and head out.
Campo de’ Fiori
Since we’re fans of walking for a long time and then eating at markets before we walk more, we decided to head to Campo de’ Fiori first. Campo de’ Fiori is a bustling food market. You can get anything from fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, seasonal veggies and fruits, porcini mushrooms, every kind of olive oil and vinegar, and many souvenirs. We bought two large, fresh orange juices because we were both getting over the sniffles. I liked to think it helped because we had a bit of a spring in our step after we left the market.
Above the bustling and bubbly nature of this market square stands a very ominous statue made of black polished stone. The statue is a hooded figure, standing with eyes peering down, holding a book. It’s striking and I had to read more about it when I got home that night. It turns out in the old days, public executions were held in the Campo. One of these executions was that of philosopher, Giordano Bruno. On the 17th of February in 1600 he was burnt alive at the stake for “heresy.” Because his philosophies of astrology, theology, and science did not align with the Catholic church he was burned alive. In the 19th and 20th century, Bruno was put back into the spotlight and viewed as a “martyr for science.” In 1889, Ettore Ferrari dedicated this statue to him on the exact spot of his death. The statue eerily faces the Vatican. The inscription on the base reads: A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE (“To Bruno – the century predicted by him – here where the fire burned”).
As you walk through the market you will be solicited every other second by someone selling something. The perimeter of the market is lined with restaurants and brunch spots. One old man dressed to the nines was an epic hustler! He grabbed Paul’s arm and began chatting us up. He said to Paul that “[your] wife is strong. She needs babies! She needs five babies!” We awkwardly laughed and it was interesting that this old man was so passionate about me having a shit-ton of kids. He then said, “Come follow me, I have your table ready for you!!!” We didn’t go inside, but he put forth an A+ sales effort.
We opted out of going to a tourist trap food spot and instead went to Il Fornaio instead. It’s a sandwich shop located right outside of the Campo. It gets really busy during lunch time so I’d say go when you’re done with your Campo perusing. It’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike, but the prices are reasonable and the food is top quality.
Once you’ve bought your sandwich at Il Fornaio, head over to nearby Piazza Navona. Here you can eat your sandwich in the sun while sitting on a bench or ledge of one of the many fountains in the piazza. This place is excellent for people watching. I spotted a woman smoking an afternoon cigarette on her private balcony that faced the piazza and thought, “now that’s a good place to be!”
In the center of the piazza you will find the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) created by Bernini. Take your time looking at all the details. This fountain is a true work of art!
As you people watch you can’t ignore the sweet sound of the piazza Carousel. It’s blue, teal, gold, and purple colors whiz around as little kids from everywhere (and some parents) enjoy the ride.
Our final stop of the day was the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a former Roman temple that later became a Catholic church. To me, despite the theological conversion, the building has kept its ancient Roman temple look. I’m glad they didn’t completely tear this beautiful temple down when they made it a church, but instead just redecorated.
That’s one of the many things I deeply admire about Italy: They do not wreck down everything and rebuild. Instead they use old spaces for new reasons. In the Tuscan town of Lucca they kept the medieval wall and made it a park. In Siena, the Campo is still a place to sun bathe as people did long ago. In Florence, the Palazzo Vecchio is an ancient palace that still serves as a city hall!!!! I wish they practiced this more in America. I think our buildings would look better and hold more meaning.
Almost two thousand years after the Pantheon was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome! The hole in the center of the dome remains uncovered. When it rains, it rains straight down inside the church! The Romans placed little holes on the floor below, so that when it did rain the rain would collect beneath the building. You can see the holes as you walk around the church.
Another highlight is the tomb of the Renaissance artist, Raphael. His body lays behind a glass wall, under a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus. We’d see more of Raphael when we got to the Vatican Museum and saw, “The School of Athens” painting.
It turns out there is a tradition in the Pantheon that should not be missed. On the 15th of May following the 10.30 a.m. Mass for the feast of Pentecost, they pour rose petals down through the oculus of the Pantheon! So, if you find yourself in Rome during that day do not miss it. The pictures look breathtaking. See pictures here: https://www.wantedinrome.com/news/rose-petals-at-the-pantheon.html