On our first night-walk in Rome, I instantly recognized the narrow street we took that led to the Campo de’ Fiori. Having stayed in a hotel a stone’s throw away from the piazza in ‘09, I was quite familiar with the area. It was one of my favorite clusters of stores, eateries and market stands. As my first visit was at night, the scenery was quite different, but I could still make out where I had eaten dinner and where I had bought a pair of handcrafted earrings. Having all those memories flood back into my head made me acknowledge (and get excited about) my personal growth since my last trip. It also provided a sense of starting a new chapter in my life. High school Gia was no more – I was seeing the Campo De’ Fiori through new and improved eyes.
Returning to the Campo de’ Fiori the next day, we walked out of the narrow street and into the madness of the open market. Tents upon tents were set up before us and they boasted lively colored spices and pasta in every shape imaginable. There were also typical tourist merchandise – ‘I love Roma’ shirts and postcards and magnets. I walked in between the tents, each vendor calling out to me louder than the previous. I wanted to touch everything, especially the pastas. For whatever reason I love the texture of dry pasta, especially the odd shapes. I picked up a bag, knowing the vendor would try to hassle me into buying it. I just wanted to hear it shift in the cellophane, inspect at the ridges and feel each noodle resist when I try to crush it. If I could make my own pasta every day, I would. I’m just lacking time, patience and that true Italian touch, the one that makes the Thursday gnocchi melt in your mouth.
The markets in the Campo de’ Fiori are always bustling because of its prime location near the Piazza Navona. It’s a huge tourist destination no matter where in the world you come from. However, on the solo trips I made I didn’t feel like a tourist. With all the Italian I have under my belt and my odd ability to maneuver around the city, taking these solo trips have really boosted my confidence. On the risk of sounding elitist, seeing the throngs of tourists in the Campo de’ Fiori (and other places) is slightly annoying. It totally destroys the magic of locale, not only for actual Romans but also for those who are looking for a genuine experience. Having strange man shove flowers in my face or try to convince me to buy something is the last thing when I want if I’m looking to just take a walk around the city.
Essentially, I feel really connected to Italy on this trip. I feel entitled to speak full Italian and not be pegged as a tourist. Entering the Campo de’ Fiori that day really made me feel that way. I blended in, I bargained, and most importantly, I was confidence in my independence.