Medieval Cloister / Hospital Café

June 18, 2014 / Food & Wine
Rome, Italy

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.

(Failure to do so would certainly result in a gov’t employee revolt. Not a joke. Il caffé plays such a central social role in Italian life, that this has actually happened. Note soon…)



by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

10 Responses to “Medieval Cloister / Hospital Café”

  1. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    Good to know….and Happy to note your unending search of “caffe e cornetto “

  2. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    I definitely “like” this post. Once again our Editor,s hidden Rome!

  3. Allan Mahnke

    We can’t wait for the followup post! This was fascinating.

  4. Joan Schmelzle

    Of course, another post to add to long, long, long list of favorite sites about Rome!

  5. As president of the American nonprofit, Friends of Roman Cats I thank you for adding another cat site to our list. We help groups throughout Italy that care for free-ranging cats, get them spayed/neutered. We even offer a ‘Cats and Culture’ Italian tour to learn about Italy through the eyes of those who care for its stray cats.


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