Ever thought about enjoying an innovative and tasty appetizer spread alongside one of Rome’s better-made cocktails while ensconced in a Renaissance cloister? I thought so. While certainly not the cheapest, the daily aperitivo at Chiostro del Bramante, just off of Piazza Navona, is by far one of the best aperitivo experiences around. You may have noticed Cortona’s Baroque facade of Santa Maria Della Pace down at the end of Via della Pace while angling for a table at Caffe della Pace, but if you’ve never traversed those extra 30 meters to check it out, it is well worth your time. Tucked into the corner of the piazza behind the church is the entrance to the Chiostro del Bramante, an early 16th century cloister attached to the church. Commissioned by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, this cloister marks Renaissance master Donato Bramante’s first work in Rome. He would later become well-known for designing a little something on the other side of the Tiber called St. Peter’s Basilica.
These days, the cloister serves as an exhibition space, hosting an eclectic and ever-rotating series of exhibits – this year has seen everything from a Karl Lagerfeld retrospective to the newly-opened “Gli Orientalisti” – exploring 19th C Italian depictions of Asian life. But after you’ve had your fill of whatever’s on display, wander up the (quite precarious, actually) stairs to the “Caffeteria-Bistrot”. It’s a great stop at any time of day – I’ve had a fantastic shakerato, and hear the lunch is great too – but the aperitivo truly stands out. While you’re just steps from the madness of Piazza Navona and the crowds on Via della Pace, it melts away as you enter the cloister and enjoy an elegant drink and delightful spread (gorgonzola cheesecake anyone?). The aperitivo was closed for the summer but reopens tonight, and you better believe I’ll be there!
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