Sometimes Rome can feel poor, nasty, and brutish (apologies to Thomas Hobbes.) Today, with temperatures in the high 30 degrees C, it certainly felt that way. Not the memory I want to take back to Canada from Italy!
But happily, I found refuge in a cloister, frescos, Raphael and fresh-squeezed orange juice on ice. I really am quite easy to please!
I had read about Baroque architect Donato Bramante’s cloister attached to the Church of Santa Maria della Pace on Slow Travel several years ago, but had never found my way inside. Today, though, I was desperate to escape Rome’s heat and when I saw the doors of the cloister open, I ventured inside.
It really is a haven, just a short distance from the madness that is Piazza Navona on a hot June day with tonnes of tour groups, student groups, fake artists, buskers playing The Beatles. Horrible.
The cloister, in contrast, was very serene. High walls that once enclosed monks now shut out the city noise and shelter artists’ exhibitions. Deteriorating frescos on the inner walls add a spiritual touch.
Up one flight of stairs is a chic bar/cafeteria with that makes sophisticated drinks pleasantly served at tables on all four sides of the cloister, looking down into the courtyard below. You can sit for hours in calm and peace.
There’s also a lovely bookshop but perhaps best of all, a small lounge area with a window that looks into the Church of Santa Maria della Pace and directly onto Raphael’s 1514 frescos in the Chigi Chapel of the Four Sibyls Receiving Angelic Instruction and commissioned by Agostino Chigi, who was the papal banker. Being able to see these is a real treat because it is extremely difficult to get into the SM Della Pace; the church keeps very infrequent hours.
Alas, no photos are allowed of the Raphael frescos.