The Campo dei Fiori in the Parione district is one of the jewels of Rome. In the morning it's a bustling marketplace, that transforms into a nightlife centre in the evening all amid a beautiful setting steeped with history.
It has always been the piazza for races, palios, and executions.
It is located where the Temple of Venus Victrix stood in ancient Rome, attached to the Theatre of Pompey.
The name of the piazza seems to have come from Flora, Pompey's beloved, for he had already built a theatre in the area. It could also have come from the fact that by 1400 the piazza was deserted and had become overgrown with wildflower meadows and vegetable gardens.
In the mid-1400s, Pope Callistus III reorganized the whole district and paved the entire area. It was during this renovation work that many elegant palazzos were built: the Palazzo Orsini, for example, is located right on the Campo dei Fiori. It was the Orisinis who gave the little piazza alongside Campo dei Fiori the name Piazza del Biscione (large snake), because their family crest included an eel.
Once the piazza was restored, it became a mandatory place for prominent figures such as ambassadors and cardinals to socialize. All this helped the Campo dei Fiori area become the centre of a thriving horse market held every Monday and Saturday. As could be expected, hotels, inns, and artisan workshops sprung up in the area, making it one of the most vibrant parts of the city and a lively cultural and commercial centre.
But Piazza Campo dei Fiori was infamous as well, being the place where executions were carried out. A statue in the centre of the piazza commemorates this fact to passers-by: Giordano Bruno a philosopher and Dominican monk accused of heresy was burned alive here on February 17, 1600.
His bronze statue was created in 1888 and placed in the centre of the piazza at the exact location of his execution.
Over the centuries, the piazza has remained a lively and tumultuous place. Since the second half of the 1800s, it has hosted a vibrant and picturesque daily street market, where you can still sense the soul of the Roman populace among the colourful cries of vendors and the throngs of buyers.
Homage to this place was even paid by Italian cinema with a 1943 film, Campo dei Fiori.
Another idiosyncrasy is that this place is perhaps one of the few lay corners of the capital: Campo dei Fiori is the only piazza in Rome without a single church.
At sunset Campo dei Fiori transforms into a beloved nightlife haunt. It is packed with young people Italians and foreigners alike hanging out at the numerous clubs in the piazza and the neighbouring streets. It is often patrolled by police, who try, sometimes without much success, to prevent excessive partying and rowdiness.