By Tania LaCaria
The flirtatious energy was palpable. The sounds of music bouncing off the stone facades of buildings, the smell of fresh tomato sauce wafting through the square along with the sight of liquid gold pouring out of freshly corked bottles of white vino was mesmerizing. As I stared at a jovial busker who was entertaining a crowd of curious bystanders, I realized the “rumours” I’d heard about Piazza Campo del Fiori were true. This was a special place to spend an evening.
I made my way over to the town square after a more-than-satisfying dinner in the city of Rome. I was told by locals that Piazza Campo del Fiori is THE place to be if you’re looking for an authentic Roman experience; which I was. I only had three days to experience the city and I wasn’t interested in wasting what short amount of time I had revisiting all the tourist sights that I had seen years ago (like the Coliseum, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain, etc). I was on a mission for an authentic experience, in search of my very own Roman Holiday escapade, and I was trying my damnedest to be as charmingly elegant as Ms. Hepburn (although opinions on my success are varied).
The side streets that led to the piazza were narrow and unevenly paved in medieval cobblestone. Neon bar signs overhead helped light my way, and once I could see the well-lit square in the near distance, I could already hear the whining notes of a nearby accordion wailing in the square. As I emerged from the shadowy alley and stepped into the official piazza area, I felt as though I had walked into an entirely different city.
Allow me to set the scene:
There were happy, drunk, young people (most of whom seemed to be deeply in love or on the verge of falling in love) everywhere.
A group of teens were hanging around the centre of the square sitting on the steps at the base of the infamous statue of Giordano Bruno – a man who was burned at the stake in 1600 for heresy. I watched the young crowd playfully tease one another in between exaggerated bouts of flirtatious laughter. It looked like a scene out of an Italian version of the Breakfast Club’s detention montage (there is nothing more entertaining to me than watching youth attempt to connect with the opposite sex). They sounded like they were having so much fun; their laughter became infectious and I soon found myself smiling and chuckling along, as if I were part of the gathering myself.
The perimeter of the square was lined with restaurant after restaurant, with the occasional café-cum-bar venue shoved in between. Just like most of the other piazzas in Rome, beautiful people enjoying robust dishes of pasta or meat occupied every single table; their glasses of ruby red wine and sparkling water twinkled in the candlelight. I could feel the positive energy vibrating off the canopied awnings – this is “the place” to go to on a first date, but also “the place” to take your sweetheart on your 10th wedding anniversary. Love was in the air.
And so it seemed I had successfully accomplished my mission as there were very few tourists around. I noticed that most of the locals who were at the bars where nursing drinks and mingling with one another; everyone seemed eager to make new friends and expand their social circles. “Do people come here to make new friends?” I wondered to myself? Then I noticed a group of well-dressed women taking photos outside the front of a swanky lounge (surely a birthday celebration), while a nearby group of hunky men watched with respectfully lustful anticipation. Suddenly, it all made sense. The reason why one would visit Piazza Campo del Fiori is quite simple: the place was a meat-market. A sophisticated, good-natured hang-out spot where the goal was to meet that special someone to dance the night away with.
As I walked around and tried to choose a bar where I could enjoy a glass of Valpolicella on the patio by myself, I could feel a set of eyes on me. I casually glanced around and noticed that a tall, dark, handsome (Italian) guy with a beer in tow was watching me. My previous trip to Italy taught me that Italian men are not shy to stare, so I smiled to myself and averted my eyes… even the slightest eye contact can be misinterpreted as a sign of interest, and I already had a tall, dark, handsome (Canadian) guy of my own back home. I was enjoying soaking up the scene and listening to the nearby accordions when suddenly Mr. (Handsome) Beer Bottle was standing in front of me, and was clearly much older than I had initially estimated. Oh my goodness, I thought to myself, “Could this be my very own Gregory Peck!?” Maybe in another lifetime where my Roman Holiday fantasy stood a chance. I mustered up a shy smile, muttered a “buona notte” and decided to continue on my way to visit another “authentically Roman” destination on my list.
What a place. The frenetic energy that I love so much about the city of Rome seems to be centralized in Piazza Campo del Fiori.
I look forward to returning one day with my (Canadian) guy so we can sip red wine and have a romantic dinner together and contribute to the overactive hormones that seem to hover above everyone’s heads like a cartoon cloud. The energetic and amorous atmosphere of Piazza Campo del Fiori has contributed to my infatuation with the magical city of Rome.