Here’s another case in Rome where an older building has been incorporated into a newer one and where its function therefore changes without however losing its personality. If you happen to be in Trastevere in the morning (best time to visit, really) and make it to Piazza San Cosimato and its lively daily market, be sure to check into the hospital… per un caffé.
The Nuovo Ospedale Regina Margherita has completely enveloped the 9th century Benedictine church and cloister of San Cosimato itself, and a visit is delightful for various reasons.
First, the double columned cloister with its rose bushes and fruit trees is probably quite similar to how it appeared 1000 years ago, and just as pleasingly peaceful. It is also a cat sanctuary, which would not be complete without the Roman marble bathtubs and columns sprinkled throughout. Supposedly, the area is the site of Augustus’ naumachia, an arena for mock naval battles.
Yet mixed among the many ancient Roman inscribed marble pieces mounted along an entire wall of the wrap-around inner portico are plastic signs for the centro geriatrico or endoscopia digestiva, reminding you that this really is a hospital.
However, keep an eye out for the door under the portico with no sign that has the steady stream of doctors, nurses, and even patients coming and going. That’s the hospital café, and much like all cafés in public buildings (airports, docks, hospitals, etc.), they serve a mean cappuccino and espresso.