If you go to Rome, there’s a tucked away haven just a short walk from Piazza Navona and linked to Santa Maria della Pace. It used to be a cloister for religious. Now, it’s a museum and cafe, called Caffetteria-Bistrot Chiostro del Bramante. (Clositer-to-cafe? Kinda sad, I know.) It was originally designed by Donato Bramante, renaissance architect par excellence. While living in Rome, this sanctuary became my hands-down favorite place to do work, to write articles, shoot out emails (free wifi with the purchase of a Caffé Macchiato) and catch up with friends. But most importantly, it was a quiet niche where I could recharge and take in the beauty of an old cloister designed by a renaissance master. Not a bad break room, eh? Even though it’s in the heart of Rome, I could sit in the tranquility of this cloister, sip an espresso, and feel a world away from the frenetic streets of the Eternal City. Since it is not a major basilica or Roman ruin, the cloister is not on most people’s top-ten list of things to see in Rome, so tourists rarely materialized here. During sporadic, heavy rainstorms, I’d frequently duck into the cloister, sit under the arcade on the second floor, where the trendy cafe was located, and peer down into the courtyard as the rain poured in. So peaceful. Those monks were on to something when they built these serene enclosures across Europe. It was a perfect place. I could imagine in times past, Gregorian chant or polyphony traveling out of the exquisite church, down the halls, ricochetting against the four walls of the cloister and maybe spilling out onto the surrounding cobblestone streets. The name Bramante evokes order, contemplation, the beauty of the renaissance and baroque, unrivaled culture, art, churches and outstanding coffee, of course.
I can’t make a quick detour to Café Bramante anymore for a routine caffeine/renaissance fix. So I decided that, here in Milwaukee, I’m going to find a new “Café Bramante.” Let’s be realistic. It’s not going to be a centuries-old work of art designed by a renaissance genius. But it can be someplace special and peaceful, where thoughts of higher things, of beauty, can materialize rather effortlessly in my mind. And if a good cup of coffee can be added to the mix, all the better.