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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in August 2009.

Piazza di Campo dei Fiori (Book 2) (Map C3) (Day 7) (View D7) (Rione Parione) and (Rione Regola)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Campo dei Fiori
Albergo della Vacca (Vannozza Cattanei)
Monument to Giordano Bruno
Fontana della Terrina

The Plate (No. 28)

This plate does not show a famous church or an imposing palace; its subject is the contrast between life (the horse and fodder market, the jacket makers, the sellers of cooked food) and death (the gallows).
The gallows was not used mainly for capital punishment, but rather for lesser offences and aimed to hurt and humiliate the prisoner. A rope hung from a pulley to which the culprit was tied and then he was raised and lowered to the ground several times; the street leading from Piazza Farnese to Campo dei Fiori is still called Via della Corda (Rope Street).
The view is taken from the green dot in the map below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) The gallows; 2) The fountain; 3) Palazzo Pio. 3) is covered in another page. The small 1748 map shows also 4) Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica; 5) Albergo della Vacca. The dotted line in the small map delineates the border between Rione Regola (left lower quarter) and Rione Parione.


The view in July 2009

In 1869 the horse and fodder market was replaced by the vegetable and fruit market which was previously located in Piazza Navona. The gallows in a sense was replaced by the 1889 mournful monument to Giordano Bruno, so Campo dei Fiori continues to be characterized by life and death symbols.
The square is slightly longer than it was in the XVIIIth century as a block of houses at its western end was pulled down in 1858.

Campo dei Fiori at Ferragosto 2009

In recent years, to the dismay of residents, Campo dei Fiori has become the venue of "pub crawlers", both locals and foreigners, who spend their evenings in the many "Irish pubs" which have replaced the old trattorias.
Campo dei Fiori is quiet only at Ferragosto.
Read William Dean Howells' account of his visit to Campo dei Fiori in 1908.

Campo dei Fiori

(left-above) 1483 inscription celebrating the cleaning of Campo dei Fiori and the opening of Via Florea/Via del Pellegrino (the inscription is now at the beginning of Via dei Balestrari (crossbow makers); (left-below) 1497 inscription celebrating the enlargement of Via del Pellegrino; (centre) coat of arms of Pope Alexander VI; (right) a fine "madonnella" in Via dei Balestrari

Campo de' Fiori was not paved with stone until 1456 and that explains why it was called Campo (field/grassland); the reference to Fiori (flowers) is uncertain: a literary option suggests that Flora, a woman loved by Pompey, had her house in this location which is very near Teatro di Pompeo.
In 1473 Pope Sixtus IV built Ponte Sisto on the ruins of an ancient bridge, in order to facilitate the orderly flow of pilgrims between the two sides of the Tiber in the forthcoming 1475 Jubilee. The new bridge increased the importance and the real estate value of Campo dei Fiori and in 1483 the pope promoted the cleaning of the area and the opening of Via Florea which linked the new bridge with Ponte S. Angelo. The new street was known as Via del Pellegrino because it was used by pilgrims on their way to S. Pietro.
In 1497 Pope Alexander VI widened Via del Pellegrino. It was an early case of conflict of interest, because the pope's mistress, Vannozza Cattanei, lived in Via del Pellegrino and had two inns in Campo dei Fiori.

Albergo dellaVacca

(left) The complex coat of arms on the former entrance to the inn (the top left and lower right quarters form the coat of arms of Pope Alexander VI, the top right quarter is the coat of arms of Vannozza Cattanei and the lower left quarter is the coat of arms of her third husband); (centre) Albergo della Vacca; (right) an elaborate "madonnella" in nearby Via dei Cappellari (hat makers)

Vannozza Cattanei bore Pope Alexander VI (when he was still a cardinal) four children. Two of them, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia became famous on their own: Cesare for his cunning and ruthless attempts to create a kingdom for himself (for Machiavelli he was the perfect example of Italian Principe); Lucrezia for her beauty and for her alleged use of poison in getting rid of her second husband.
In 1500 Vannozza Cattanei bought an inn near Campo de' Fiori (now it is at one of the corners of the square) where she put a complex coat of arms: the cow (It. vacca) portrayed on its top left quarter gave the name to the inn. Her other inn was located on the other side of the street.

Monument to Giordano Bruno

(left) 1889 Monument to Giordano Bruno (statue by Ettore Ferrari); (right) relief showing Bruno at the stake

The philosopher Giordano Bruno was burnt alive on February 17, 1600 as a heretic in Campo dei Fiori. The monument is a memorial also to other philosophers persecuted by the Roman Church because of their views.

Ceremony on the anniversary of Bruno's death

Every year the anniversary is celebrated by the Italian Association for Freethinking. It is a short ceremony to which the Association invites the Mayor of Rome. In today's Italian political environment the monument and the ceremony are an embarrassment to politicians who fear to displease the Catholic hierarchy; the Mayor prefers to send a representative who delivers a carefully worded speech; in 2009 a person who was unaware of Bruno's fate, by listening to it, would have thought that the philosopher died in a road accident.

Fontana della Terrina

(left) Fontana della Terrina and enlargement of part of its inscription (fa dal bene e lassa dire - engage in good deeds and do not mind what others say); (right) an unforeseen modern use of the fountain

The fountain was called la Terrina (tureen) because of its shape. It was designed during the pontificate of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-85); the lid was added in 1622. The fountain was placed close to the ground because of the low water pressure provided by the aqueduct which supplied it; this was Acqua Vergine, an ancient aqueduct which was reactivated in 1570; la Barcaccia in Piazza di Spagna is another low fountain supplied by Acqua Vergine and Mostra dell'Acqua Vergine (Fontana di Trevi), notwithstanding its imposing design, could not be embellished with vertical spouts, because of lack of pressure. The design of Fontana della Terrina was criticized; the small inscription on its "handle" is an ironical reply to its detractors.

The new fountain in Campo dei Fiori

The fountain was at the centre of the square and it was dismantled in 1889 to make room for the monument to Giordano Bruno; in 1925 it was relocated to Piazza della Chiesa Nuova.
In 1898 a copy of the fountain, without the lid and placed above a granite basin, was built at the western end of Campo dei Fiori.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Campo di Fiore
La spaziosa piazza, che resta incontro al palazzo Pio dovrebbe dirsi Campo di Flora; secondo alcuni, per la donna amata da Pompeo, che Flora dicevasi; ma sembra più verisimile, secondo altri, che provenga un tal nome da' giuochi florari, che quivi furono istituiti da una certa donna chiamata Tarrazia, che aveva lasciato in eredità al Popolo Romano questo campo; perlochè i Gentili superstiziosi la finsero Dea de' fiori, e Flora la chiamarono. In oggi su questa piazza si fa continuo mercato di grani, biade, ed altre sorte di vettovaglie, ed in ogni lunedì e sabato una fiera di cavalli, muli, e somari, e si esercita in essa la giustizia contro i rei, che dal tribunale della sagra Inquisizione si consegnano alla Corte secolare.

Next plate in Book 2: Piazza di Pescheria
Next step in Day 7 itinerary: Palazzo della Cancelleria Apostolica
Next step in your tour of Rione Parione: Palazzo Pio
Next step in your tour of Rione Regola: Palazzo Falconieri