Experiencing the art at Chiostro del Bramante is not only about its cutting-edge exhibitions, but also about the space and the history of this extraordinary Roman gem. Everything about it is perfect. The museum sits in the old Cloisters, originally a monastery, attached to the Church of Santa Maria della Pace, where you can see Raphael’s famous Sibyls fresco, in one of my favorite areas of Rome. Located to the west of Piazza Navona, it is tucked away in a street just behind the antique shops of Via dei Coronari. It is a peaceful retreat from the buzz of the city; it is the gallery my children want to visit the most whenever we return to Rome.

The cloisters are a great place for children to skip and gently let off some steam without cars running you over, which in Rome, feels frequent especially when herding children along the street. You can buy tickets in the entrance if you are visiting an exhibition (all of the 9 exhibitions I visited when living in Rome were superb) or you can wander in and go up to the café on the first floor which is a great place for salads or something a bit more contemporary if you are needing a break for pizza and pasta. They have cleverly made seats out of the stone pillars outside the café and the sun hits the beautiful sundial which sits adjacent to the dome, built by Donato Bramante, architect of the High Renaissance and a rival of Michelangelo’s. The wifi is very useful along with a great bookshop and gift shop which has some wonderful items for sale for all ages.

Photo: Isabel Lamb

The exhibitions at the Chiostro have been small but perfectly formed and curated thoughtfully. From the trio of the Enjoy, Love and Dream (2017, 2018, 2019) shows to the brilliant Turner exhibition it is a wondrous thing to know a gallery like this which brings to Rome a wholly diverse offering of the art history. To list just a few of my favorites over the last few years: Chagall: Love and Life (2015), works shipped over from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, James Tissot (2016) a first exhibition of the French artist in Italy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, king of street art (2017), and I wish I had been here for a favorite artist, Brueghel’s show in 2014. For children, this gallery is a great discovery – it is small enough for them to wander around without getting museum fatigue and a café close at hand should they need a cornetti to nibble on and espresso for the parents. When you visit Rome with small children the giant tourist attractions such as the Colosseum or the Vatican can often feel exhausting to even think about, not to mention the queues and being harassed by ticket touts who pop up every few seconds. This is why the Chiostro del Bramante is my first port of call when in Rome with children. The Dream exhibition on now until May 2019 is a collection of immersive contemporary art and children just adore it. For all their exhibitions Chiostro del Bramante provide you with headsets for both adults and children which can help especially for the more traditional of shows for example the Turner, a collection of carefully chosen JMW Turner art works from London’s Tate Collection. I cannot wait to see what exhibitions they have planned for this year and the future, not only for myself but it serves as great family experience for all where children can really enjoy art in a magical space.

Photo: Isabel Lamb

As the art gallery says on its website, “Following a general renovation of the space, the Chiostro del Bramante is developing more and designed to engage a wide and diverse audience. Families and young children are welcome” and for those “seeking guidance in incorporating art into school curricula.” The gallery space I find particularly helpful as its small enough for parents and children to enjoy without getting too tired – a tip is to really enjoy each room as there are only 8 rooms spread over 2 floors in total. If you rush through it will be over quickly but that is the joy. Go slow, move through the gallery and really LOOK at the works, discus them with your children and think about how you may work it into some activity at the café afterwards – which brings me onto my next tip which is to pack some paper and colored pencils if you haven’t already. If you forget, don’t worry, the Chiostro shop does have pencils, notebooks and more cheerful merchandise which I could happily spend a lot of time (and money!) on.

Photo: Isabel Lamb

Throughout the weekdays they also have the wonderful Gymboree set up for younger children next to the café on the first floor. All lessons are in English and the timetable is as follows: – English School Skills (2 – 4 years) | Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 am to 12:00 pm – Gymboree English Club (3 – 6 years) | Monday and Wednesday from 16:30 pm to 18:30 pm – Music 2/3 (16 m – 5 years) | Thursday from 10:00 am to 10:45 am – Music 1 (6 – 16 months) | Thursday from 11:00 am to 11:45 am

The other tip for those visiting Chiostro del Bramante (or any museum or gallery in the city) is to contact Loren from Children in Rome. They offer English speaking tours and create a great experience for you all if you need help navigating your Roman holiday. Their website is: https://www.childreninrome.com and Loren and her team have done many popular tours to Chiostro’s exhibitions including the very child friendly current Dream Exhibition (on until May 2019). The museum also has some great restaurants nearby too if the café menu doesn’t tempt you. The area the gallery is in is also my favorite in Rome. The Bar del Fico (favorite vibe), Da Francesco (favorite pizzas) and Etabli (favorite cocktails but also great for Italian food) are my top 3 and they are only a 3 minute walk away. On Via dei Coronari just behind Chiostro there are also some nice places to stop for a light lunch and ice cream. If you are doing a trip to Piazza Navona to see the beautiful Bernini and Borromini sculpture/architecture, it works well to include this with a trip to the gallery because of their proximity.

To enjoy the gallery or museum experience in Rome with children it’s necessary to prep yourself with the nearest places to dine, have access to the toilet (there is a good clean one in the Chiostro) and incase of bribery, ice cream on tap. Once you have armed yourself with this information the world, or rather Rome, is your oyster. The Chiostro is my favorite to visit with children: its small in a good way, always has a great selection of exhibitions, a brilliant café, a beautiful church adjoining it, an interesting history, great location and is aesthetically very pleasing to the eye. I hope you can pay it a visit should you book a holiday to the Eternal City. Enjoy!