I’ve always thought of Rome as incredibly romantic. It probably has something to do with watching Roman Holiday over and over again as a teenager. It’s ingrained in my mind: a princess wandering the cobblestones, buying sandals and gelato, losing and finding herself.

Radicchio at Campo dei Fiori

Of course, life is not a film, and mostly when I am in Rome I end up being overwhelmed by the chaos and the traffic and somehow it’s always just ridiculously hot when I choose to go – a day meant for the seaside or laying low rather than wandering city streets on foot. But even after one of those days, on my way home to Florence on the train, I’m left with that same romantic nostalgia as I have when I was eighteen and imagined I was Audrey Hepburn.

I had two days in Rome recently, for work, not for play. But luckily my work is kind of like play, so I got to get out and about and wander the market, eat pizza bianca and drink too many coffees — generally doing what I might normally do if given the chance to wander Rome. It looked like this:

Campo dei Fiori

Campo dei Fiori, early in the morning, when it’s still just cool enough that you’re not breaking a sweat just moving. First, an espresso and a cornetto. Actually, no, a girella – a divine puff pastry swirl with custard and sultanas.

A wander in to the Forno dei Campo dei Fiori, in the corner of the campo, where the bakers charmingly obliged to having their photo taken while pummeling oblong blobs of pizza dough into shape.

Back to the market, where the impossibly colourful stands full of summer produce called out for impulse buys: plump dark cherries from Puglia, zucchini flowers, tomatoes of all shapes, Saturnia peaches and radicchio that looked like a painting. A block of pecorino romano for grating over pasta all’amatriciana.

Cheese at Campo dei FioriBaker at Forno Campo dei FioriFlower petals Campo dei FioriVegetable stand at Campo dei Fiori

Speaking of impulse buys, I also came away with a triangular cheese grater, some olive wood spoons, little ceramic splatterware pots and duralex glasses for small servings of wine, perfect for lunch. And a huge bunch of lavender-blue hydrangeas. It was hard to tell when I was working and when I was playing.

Then we wandered, searching for those photogenic and characteristic Roman cobblestone streets with well-worn walls covered in persistent vines (it’s not hard to come across them), and on the way, I bought myself a handwoven market basket (another impulse buy – I swear, it’s that eighteen year old pretending to be Audrey Hepburn).

A stop for more espresso and cold water, as the heat began to take over by 11am.

And more wandering, this time towards chaotic, hot and touristy Piazza Navona, where we found the tucked away, cool and calm Bar del Fico, named for the large fig tree that seemingly grows from nowhere like so much of the historic centre’s greenery (thank you Alice, an Australian in Rome who runs Latteria Studios, for telling me about this spot). It’s been at least 10 years that I’ve paid 80 euro cents for an espresso like I did at Bar il Fico. Apparently it’s a good spot for aperitivo too.

Basilica near Campo dei FioriBar il FicoInterior Bar il Fico

I cooked, too. I made dough for baking soft, pillowy maritozzi, Roman cream buns. The tomatoes became a salad with beans and red onion. The zucchini flowers got dipped in chilled batter and deep fried. The cherries went into a crostata di ricotta. And the pecorino was grated over rigtoni coated with amatriciana sauce – a flavourful, spicy three-ingredient sauce of guanciale, tomato and chilli. I’ll hopefully get to share more of these photographs soon as the resulting dinner party, on a beautiful rooftop belonging to One Fine Stay, was a beauty — the main work part of the trip.

It was a busy visit, with barely enough time to break but the one moment I did have free was used to pop into Piperno in Rome’s Jewish ghetto, to eat their deep fried zucchini flowers (stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies) and a plate of cacio e unto – spaghetti with cheese and guanciale. And with each bite, there I was imagining Roman Holiday again.

Maritozzi buns out of the ovenDinner party for One Fine Stay

For more Rome Eats, have a look here:

Bar del Fico


  1. Frances says:

    Beautiful photos, makes me want to visit Rome every year! And I love Bar il Fico, discovered while attending language school nearby. Are there still old men playing chess outside?

  2. Emiko!! Thanks so much for this post! Just in time as I’ll be in Rome in a few weeks! WOOT!!!

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Oh wow, enjoy Rome and keep cool and hydrated!! A cafe stop is always a good excuse to take a break and duck out of the sun for a bit. Bar del Fico was really a favourite — good for when you’re wandering the centro storico!

  3. Rosemarie says:

    Emiko, your post makes me want to go Rome even though it’s stinking hot and I no longer find the unrelenting summer heat in Italy romantic . Funnily enough, I’ve also been looking for those classic Duralex glasses with no luck so far. Thanks for transporting me to Rome and will look for Bar del Fico next time I make it there.

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Those glasses are fantastic. If it weren’t so hot and I wasn’t carrying around hand luggage all day I would have bought a whole heap of them. 2 will have to do for now, and I know I can always go back and find them in Campo dei Fiori!

  4. Stacy says:

    Emiko, I love your blog, though admittedly I haven’t had much time to read it lately! This was the perfect read this evening as I have been daily looking at Rome’s forecast to cheer me from the glum prospect of our own cool rainy days. I have been planning my own wee Roman Holiday and this has given me a few more good ideas to add to my itinerary!

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Thank you for coming back! I totally understand, I find myself struggling to find the time to write it myself! Leaning more towards plenty of photos and shorter writing — sometimes, it’s true, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! So glad this will help your trip planning.

  5. TonyM says:

    You had me at cheese…..

  6. Paweł says:

    I’ve been watching “Roman Holiday” last week 🙂 I never been in Rome but i suppose that city still look like in movie 😉 And guess which two books about Rome and food i will be reading soon? 😉

  7. Anthony says:

    Beautiful photos Emiko! Thank you so much

  8. Sukyi says:

    Hey Emiko! Did you try any of the baked goods at Forno dei Campo dei Fiori? I’m heading to Rome soon and I’m wondering if it’s worth a visit!

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