On our second day in Rome, Melody and I got up early to catch breakfast at the train station. We stopped at Momento, a small, casual chain serving surprisingly good coffee and pastries. (That’s the thing about Rome – there’s good coffee everywhere.)
I had a capuccino and Nutella brioche – not the healthiest of breakfasts, but a delicious one. I’d quickly learn that in Rome, there is Nutella-flavored everything to be found – not that I’m complaining.
We found our bus at the terminal outside the station and headed towards Campo de Fiori. Once we arrived, we wandered off in the wrong direction and ended up at Piazza Navona instead, a huge square lined with baroque architecture – a church, a palace, statues, and a couple fountains. In other words, a quintessential Italian postcard.
Because it was the holiday season, the square was packed with families and tourists who were in turn being flanked by vendors selling kitsch and roasted chestnuts. Melody and I bypassed crowds and made our way around the square, bumping into where we had set out to visit: Campo de Fiori.
Originally a meadow (campo de fiori means “meadow of flowers,”) today the area is a colorful maze of food stalls, restaurants, vendors, and side streets. I’d done my research ahead of time and knew this was the site of a couple of restaurants I wanted to eat at, so when we spotted Obika, the mozzarella bar that was on my list, we decided to have lunch.
That’s right, a mozzarella bar. Situated in a corner of the square, Obika is a chic space, complete with alcohol-serving bar and well, mozzarella-serving staff. Once seated, we ordered a couple of mix and match platters choosing our mozzarella and accompanying meats and vegetables. I had a glass of Nero d’Avola on the side; Melody had black tea.
My favorite type of mozzarella is burrata – gooey and slightly sweet, and super fresh. This was served with cherry tomatoes, spinach, salt-cured olives, and the best pesto I’ve ever tasted.
We also had a plate of smoked mozzarella with handmade mortadella, tomatoes, and olives. This mozzarella was much denser and had meaty quality, which helped it stand up against the mortadella.
Fully sated, we began exploring the rest of Campo de Fiori, which was already closing up shop midday. Touristy-ness aside, you can get almost anything here: fresh produce, dried tomatoes, pasta of all shapes and sizes, and of course, limoncello.
Right as we were about to leave, I noticed Forno Campo de Fiori, another one of the eateries I’d marked as a to-eat. Afraid we might not get another chance to return to the neighborhood, Melody and I went in for a slice of pizza. Sure, we may have just eaten a pound or two of cheese, but there’s always room for pizza, right?
After wrangling a couple of slices at the busy counter (it was my first time ordering pizza al taglio, which is cut and then weighed), Melody and I stood outside (there is no seating at Forno Campo de Fiori) and dug in. No cheese, just a thin layer of sauce, but oh so good. The thin, chewy crust was just out the oven and warmed us in the cold December air.
Lunch number two out of the way, Melody and I headed over to Via del Corso for some posh (mostly window) shopping. We circled around to Piazza Venezia, which leads to the Monument to Vittorio Emmanuelle II.
The monument was built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, and as far as Italian monuments go, this one is pretty recent. It wasn’t completed until 1935, and it is huge. Despite lacking a dome or a tower, it’s visible from most of Rome, and having been constructed over a medieval neighborhood, it’s invited a fair share of controversy. On the other hand, the monument affords some gorgeous views.
It was getting dark, so we headed over to Rome’s most well-known sight: Trevi Fountain. By going early we’d hoped to avoid the crowd, but we arrived to a few hundred revelers crowding around the fountain. We hung around a little longer, threw the ubiquitous coins in the fountain, and called it a night.
We had trouble finding an open restaurant in the neighborhood that wasn’t a McDonalds or an equally touristy joint, so we grabbed a quick bite at Termini Station before heading back to our hotel. After all, we’d already eaten two lunches that day.