Caffé della Pace fights for survival

caffepace11The Caffè della Pace, one of the loveliest bar-cafés in the center of Rome, is fighting to avoid eviction from its premises and has collected thousands of signatures in support of its struggle. The 19th -century café two blocks from Piazza Navona is located in a building owned by the Pontifical Teutonic Institute of the nearby Santa Maria dell’Anima church which wants to use the edifice for another use, reportedly a hotel.

Italy is a capitalist country which pretty much respects the laws of private property (although try getting a recalcitrant tenant out of your rental apartment) so it is hard to imagine what good the signatures can do. Yes, it is a cultural landmark but having said that, getting the Church to change its mind may be difficult. The Pontifical Institute already won a first court challenge.

caffe della pace (6)I myself signed because I love landmarks and because the turn of the century décor of the place is wonderful (if the church authorities were smart, they could find a way to incorporate the café into their ground floor). The current owners have been drumming up press backing and support from small business owners. But I am not sure what good it will do to remind everyone that Pope John Paul II once had coffee there was he was saying mass at the nearly adjacent Santa Maria della Pace church, that previous visitors have included Sophia Loren, Madonna, Spike Lee and Federico Fellini, and that films with Woody Allen and Julia Roberts had scenes shot there.

The character of the Parione district, where the café is located, has already changed drastically with restaurants and store-keepers catering to non-discriminating tourists and many Romans moving out of the neighborhood and renting their apartments to foreign visitors. I myself don’t live in the area and generally only get to the café when I visit my orthopedist, whose office faces it, or when I go to see one of the excellent exhibitions on view at the charming Chiostro del Bramante, right next to the Church of Santa Maria della Pace. I also have to say that as a person who loves to schmooze with your typical Roman barista, the place seems to specialize in barmen who are anything but simpatico.

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