The aromas of rain, fresh oranges, roses, and raw meat mingle in the air like a room full of people still getting to know each other, close enough to interact but not clicking just yet.
I inhale slowly as my husband holds my hand and we navigate the damp pavement of the Campo de’ Fiori. The hustle and bustle of what may be Rome’s longest standing open-air market is charmingly chaotic. My husband tightens his grip. That’s because I tend to wander. For sure, he thinks he might lose me in this place.
But I am already gone.
The scene mesmerizes me. A three-piece band (one man playing the accordion) strikes up a folksy tune, locals carefully examine produce before making purchases, and tourists inevitably gravitate toward souvenir booths. Italian words quickly cut the atmosphere, like aimless arrows.
Every day, since 1869, the buying and selling of food and wares has been happening here. Before that, in the 1600s, Campo de’ Fiori was the location of public executions. Standing on the very spot of his death is a monument of Giordano Bruno. The philosopher was burnt alive for heresy. Bruno defiantly stands shrouded as he faces the Vatican – a reminder of the dead amidst the lively market. My husband and I walk by slowly and read the inscription: A BRUNO – IL SECOLO DA LUI DIVINATO – QUI DOVE IL ROGO ARSE (To Bruno – the century predicted by him – here where the fire burned). A chill runs down my spine and I have to shake it off and focus on other things such as….meat.
A young man stands outside of his store and beckons us inside as a light sprinkle of rain begins to fall once again. Although he knows that we are not intending to buy anything, he seizes the opportunity to tell us all about the salsicce (Italian sausage) and other cured meats hanging from the ceiling in clusters. The store smells sweet and smoky and I can almost taste the salt used as a preservative. When the rain stops, he wishes us a wonderful stay in Rome and safe travels. Our departure is like a scene in a movie. I turn and see him waving at us as we leave his store. I wave back as my husband, still holding my hand, leads me out of the Campo de’ Fiori. It is all happening in slow motion but I wish I could press pause.