campo de’ fiori market {vegetables + video}

In the States, when talking about trying to get people to eat more vegetables, the debate often turns to the fact that vegetables are hard to prepare. That when faced with something like an artichoke, asparagus or even a head of lettuce, many Americans can’t be bothered to clean, trim and cook.

The processed alternative is to buy a bag of pre-washed lettuce, ‘mini’ carrots or frozen spinach. But  these ‘vegetables’, which have been prepped in huge factories, long after they have been picked,  have about as much flavor as a shoe insert.  It’s no wonder that many say they don’t like them.

Which is why I’m so happy/lucky to live in Italy. Yes. I’m as lazy as the next person. Come meal time, it’s not as if I always have the time/energy/patience to pod 3 kilos of peas, trim a dozen artichokes or – I admit it – even peel a carrot.

The great thing is that I don’t have to.

Vegetable vendors in Italy are only too happy to do the dirty work for you. Go to any open air market, or even a local vegetable store, and you’ll see baskets of trimmed and washed greens, bags of cipolline onions or even mixes for salad and minestrone. All prepared daily by the vendors themselves.

I wandered through the Campo de’ Fiori market the other day. Although the number of vegetable stands has decreased over the last few years, the stands that still sell produce do much of their business in prepared, cleaned and ready-to-cook veggies.

My favorites are the mixes. Each stand has its own spins on minestrone and salad, which change with the season. Pumpkin is sold in large wedges, so you can buy just what you need. Beans are freshly podded, green beans trimmed and bagged, ready for steaming. Even wild chicory is neatly trimmed of it’s dirty roots, so all you have to do is give it a rinse before cooking.

Watching the vendors clean the vegetables is also a nifty and free culinary lesson. Stop by any morning, and you’ll see  men and women sitting next to piles of produce, trimming away with plastic-handled, dull-looking knives. Some wear gloves, but most have hands weathered and cut by decades of nipping and cutting.

Just in case you can’t stop by Campo to pick up a bag of trimmed artichokes, I’ve included a little video so (in theory) you can do it yourself. You may have to watch it a few times to get the hang of it. Or just go ahead and make a trip to Rome.

For more on shopping for food in Rome, download my app Eat Italy, available on iTunes and for Android

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  1. says

    Last year when we were in Rome we stayed very close to Campo di fiord market and walking through early every morning was one of the high lights of our trip. it was very disappointing to come back to our markets in California and not have all those fabulous vegtables.

  2. says

    We were lucky enough to live in Rome for about 7 months last year, and Campo dei Fiori was one of the (many) highlights! Also Piazza San Cosimato, for similar reasons. One of the most difficult things to get used to upon returning to the States was how difficult it was to find produce with equivalent flavor. Sigh. Yet another thing to miss…

  3. says

    Great article Elizabeth! I love the fact that they offer prepared veggies all over. Not only are the pre – packaged vegetables flavorless but they are so over processed and old that they have little value food wise anyway. They say that many people show signs of mal-nutrition from eating vegetables from the industrial machine that are basically have so little nutrition that they add nothing to our diets. Eat fresh, eat local! Eat veggies! They are actually easy to prepare and are best the more simply they are cooked.

  4. Jeff Bonadio says


    We who live in San Diego are fortunate to have one of the few vegetable stands in America that compares with the campo dei fiori market. I refer to the Vegetable Store at Chino Ranch, one of the historic small family farms of California.

  5. Anonymous says

    Look forward to your posts Elizabeth!!
    Such memories… We have stayed many times at the Hotel Teatro de Pompeii right around corner from the Campo de Fiori Market. I love that market.
    In NYC at Eataly, there is a vegetable butcher to prepare veggies on request!

  6. Anonymous says

    I am inspired to make Marcella Hazan’s artichokes after learning how to trim them so quickly. Thanks for the lesson.

  7. Anonymous says

    I notice you say that the number of vegetable stands in the Campo de’ Fiori has decreased in recent years. Any theories as to why this is? Are there fewer locals shopping at the market?

  8. says

    @Anonymous: There are many reasons for the decreased number of stands in the market. The main one is the competition from supermarkets. Chains like Conad have opened small stores all over the center of Rome, and are too much competition for most small scale fruit and veg vendors. Also, the prices for renting market space in Campo have gone up, while profit margins have gone down. Many of the traditional stands have been replaced by stands selling other types of processed foods like spice mixes, honeys and oils (few of which are of any quality).

  9. says

    I love Campo dei Fiori and usually stay at a hotel around the corner. I go to the market everytime I get if only to buy a piece of fruit and take pictures of what’s in season! And the forno on the corner makes amazing bread and foccaccia! thanks for sharing!

  10. Anonymous says

    Goodness! Is this what’s on offer in December?! We are eating so very pitifully here. Will I see similar goodies when I come in late January (fingers crossed)? And how far is the Campo on foot from via dei Coronari?

    Happy Xmas!

  11. says

    You have one of the most amazing blogs! Italy is my passion, so my visits here are always a pleasure!
    Thanks for sharing all you experiences.
    Happy 2012!!

  12. says

    I don’t care what anyone else says, I love this market in Rome. The vegetables are gorgeous and it seems like they put some much effort into presentation. Plus, where else can you get pre-washed field greens. I love getting Pizza Bianca at Forno and walking around. I can also buy good sweet potatos for enchiladas

  13. Anonymous says

    The lady cleans out the center of the artichoke (the thistely stuff) I notice in your cleaning instructions, you don’t mention it. I always remove it, but don’t i have to? BTW: I live in Italy, so I get the real carciofi, not those humungous globes atichokes in the US


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