A small sixteenth-century doorway, the courtyard with the old travertine wash-house, two flights of dark stone stairs worn away by time, and here we are in a unique place: cross vaults and high coffered ceilings, large paintings on the walls, a marble column and pieces of capitals set into the masonry, a sumptuous stone portal. This place dates back at least to the 1400s, and is part of a small convent that housed the Pauline nuns. The entrance was certainly a loggia, with its porticoes supported by dark marble columns. The large leaded windows opened up a view of the courtyard, the hall who knows, perhaps it was a parlor, or a reading room for the nuns. The palaces in the centre of Rome all have stories like this, ancient and partly unknown stories, stratified over the centuries.
Under this building, paper was made for the whole of Rome and its vast province. We are in Via dei Cartari, and in the foundations of the street there are still the tanks for the pulp mixtures that used water from a Roman aqueduct.
We are in the heart of the ancient city, at the intersection with Via dei Banchi Vecchi, one of the liveliest streets in Rome’s historic centre, between Corso Vittorio Emanuele and the elegant Via Giulia. Opposite is the splendid Santa Maria in Vallicella, the Chiesa Nuova, which is not so new, as it was rebuilt in the 16th century. On the high altar is the 14th-century miraculous Madonna, who bled when struck by a stone.
We are in the centre of everything, and on foot you can reach the most beautiful and spectacular places in Rome: Piazza Navona and St. Peter’s, Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum, the Tiber, the Forums.
While inside, between the thick walls and high ceilings, it is an oasis of peace, as the convent required. A beautiful but simple place, comfortable and welcoming. Leaded antique glass windows look out onto the silent courtyard, the wooden floor makes your footsteps soft, and the ancient walls protect you from all noise.