Close to the Tiber River, between the historic centre and the Vatican, rises Piazza Navona, the most beautiful symbol of Baroque Rome, welcoming and surprising you. Not by chance, the architect is Bernini, who is also the creator of the colonnade embracing Saint Peter’s Basilica – and here, too, the fountain dominates, as in every respected Baroque choreography.
The great Fountain of the Four Rivers – the Danube, the Ganges, the Rio della Plata and the Nile that flow from the four corners of the Earth – the Moor Fountain and Neptune’s Fountain are the backdrop to performances by street artists, portraitists and caricaturists who crowd the square every day to delight the tourists with their prowess.
Here, happiness and festivities reign, as the famous sonnet says. Each year for about a century during Christmas time there have been, stalls full of candies, coal and sweets of every shape and colour for mama and papa to buy to fill the stockings of their little ones. Near the Fountain of the Four Rivers, an old-time carousel – one of those with white and gold horses that gallop in a circle – warms the atmosphere.
A few steps away, Rome’s Campo dei Fiori is waiting for you, a rectangular plaza between Via dei Giubbonari and Piazza della Cancelleria, where one of the most famous and picturesque Roman markets is revealed. Every day since 1869, this area hosts stalls with all kinds of products – from large baskets of fruit and fresh-picked vegetables to freshly-baked bread – where you can be refreshed before losing yourself in the chaos of Rome.
Don’t let the name fool you: Plants have nothing to do with it. The plaza owes its name to the woman General Pompeo loved, for whom this was named: Campus Florae, or the Field of Flowers.
In the Piazza Navona area, you will find Bar del Fico, a small but eclectic bar where you can stop for a little rest or a drink after dinner. The rustic, casual furnishings, with a worn assortment of mixed vintage pieces, will put you at ease right away, in a blaze of colours and objects. ù
A clientele of artists, students and eccentrics of all kinds gather here to enjoy an aperitif with friends. Sometimes you see chess players changing places at the small game tables outside. This is not the best place to have a plate of authentic Roman food, but rather a place to sample the chaotic and homelike atmosphere that is so typical of Rome.
When evening falls, the plaza lights up and becomes the meeting place for artists and young people. Those who like strong-flavoured food should not miss the Calabrian specialties at Acchiappafantasmi (Via dei Cappellari).
If you are looking for classic Roman cooking – a nice carbonara, an enveloping pasta alla Gricia or an amatriciana with crispy bacon – stop by at Al Pompiere (Via Santa Maria dei Calderari) or at Armando al Pantheon, which has been delighting its customers since 1961, just 200 metres from the Pantheon.
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