PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 12:00am

Piazza Campo de' Fiori

It's called the field of flowers, but this area gave way to cobblestones and nightlife aeons ago, although food- and flower-stall owners still trade at the northern edge each day. Lined with bars, trattorias, restaurants and coffee shops catering to all spending levels, it's one of Rome's trendiest piazzas. Attracting a well-groomed crowd aged 20 to 40, the square comes alive again at about 10pm, with bars bursting onto the cobblestones in waves of tables and chairs.

Camponeschi, 50a Piazza Farnese (tel: [39 06] 687 4927). Closed Sundays

A rule of thumb in Rome is to visit a piazza, then break away from the main square to find the hidden gems on surrounding streets where the locals eat. Camponeschi is in the Piazza Farnese, the setting for scene two of Puccini's opera Tosca. It's hemmed in by tall, manicured hedges and a gleaming white canopy. Inside, its elegant, formal decor gives a taste of the price bracket - about Euro130 ($1,300) for dinner for two, without wine. Its super-starched tablecloths are complete with candelabra, sparkling glasses of every size, mountains of refined porcelain and silver cutlery, and the place has a staff-to-guest ratio of 2:1. A formal restaurant playing host to visiting diplomats, chief executives, opera buffs and politicians, Camponeschi offers the best in Italian cuisine, from appetisers such as lobster with black truffles and raspberry vinegar to mains of partridge in brandy sauce with mushrooms.

Hostaria Farnese, Via del Pellegrino 173, just off Campo de' Fiori

In the streets between De' Fiori and Farnese is this tiny, family-run taverna, where diners are attentively served by friendly proprietors dressed like old-fashioned ice-cream salesmen or barbers. Farnese offers such staples as pizzas and pastas, as well as other delicious dishes such as local favourite Trippa al Romana (Euro9), or beef tripe casserole - surprisingly tasty for diners wary of offal - polenta and sausage (Euro10). Try the trademark Italian dessert of hot, sugar-baked pear (Euro4).

Osteria La Carbonara, Piazza Campo de' Fiori 23 (tel: [39 06] 686 4783)

There are no prizes for guessing the signature dish at this established eatery on the square's northern boundary. With an air of faded grandeur, this mid-range restaurant never fails to satisfy, and queues of local devotees snake out of its entrance from 6pm until closing time. It's another establishment in which well-turned-out waiters provide excellent service. Antipasti set out on the table next to the door range from smoked swordfish (Euro11) to tasty white asparagus (Euro7) and papardelle gigante al sugo di cinghiale (wild boar sauce pasta, Euro9.50). If it's in season, for mains dip into the cinghiale in agrodolce (wild boar in sweet and sour sauce, Euro18). It's rich, so have a grappa as a digestif.

Taverna del Campo, Campo de' Fiori 16 (tel: [39 06] 688 9554) Eating and drinking here is a must-do Roman experience. This is, perhaps, the place in the piazza to people watch, day or night. Fashionable locals sip Italian coffees infused with regional liqueurs or dig into a wide range of pastries in the taverna's exposed-brick interior. Try the cioccolato caldo (hot chocolate), so rich and thick you have to eat it with a spoon (Euro2). Snacks such as bruschetta and crostini also tempt, especially with a beer or vino rosso. Or just plunge your plate into one of the huge wine barrels full of peanuts, or try the tasty olives.

Forno di Campo de' Fiori, Campo de' Fiori 22.

If you're feeling peckish while ambling around the market stalls, Forno can help out with its brick-oven baked pizza a taglio (pizza by the slice), which is available until 1.30am. The white pizza, topped with extra virgin olive oil and grains of sea salt, is Forno's most famous. Slices cost Euro1-Euro2.50.