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Budget Accommodations at Convents and Monasteries in Italy
Religious Housing in Rome: Choose Hotel-Like Stays or a Convent
Staying in Monasteries and Convents in Italy
Rome on a Budget

How to Arrange Low-Cost Convent Stays in Rome

Monastery Stays Are Also a Great Hospitality Choice

Convents in Vatican City and Rome
There are many convents located in Vatican City and Rome.
Photo © TransitionsAbroad.com.

“If you’re not a Catholic already, become one for your visit.” This was Rick Steves’ suggestion to travelers to Italy, and since we trusted Rick on European travel, my wife, my 13-year-old daughter, and I decided to follow his advice once more on a recent trip to Rome. We began our temporary conversion by lodging in one of the many convents tucked into almost every corner of the Eternal City.

Convents are starting to show up in guidebooks, but they are still largely unexplored by American travelers. In fact, there were no Americans among our two dozen or so fellow lodgers. Like hotels, convents will accommodate individuals, families, and groups of any or no religious affiliation. They are usually considerably less expensive than comparable hotels, and they provide a cultural experience that is unique (where else can you wake up to a chorus of nuns softly chanting matins?). Our budget- and culture-minded family wound up giving convents an enthusiastic three thumbs up as a lodging choice for the independent traveler.

Reservations

The first step is to choose among the nearly 100 religious “houses of hospitality” in Rome. Then there is the challenge of booking. We found at once that, far from being a second language, English was barely on the list for several of the convents that we were interested in, so we relied on several strategies for communication. The most successful one was to ask an Italian-speaking friend to serve as a go-between.

When our Italian-speaking friend wasn’t available we tried a different approach. In the France-based Istituto San Giuseppe di Cluny the nuns speak both Italian and French, and I decided to brave the international call myself. With considerable help from the sisters’ English, we were able to determine that the convent was available for the nights we needed. We faxed a request and received by mail a written confirmation—posted from France. (The Italian mail, as the nuns repeatedly warned us, is unsuited to business correspondence.) We reserved approximately four months prior to arrival, but during the Jubilee Year, when Rome will be packed, it would be advisable to start even earlier.

The Rooms

Quiet, safe, and beautifully appointed, our rooms overlooked the convent garden. There were no “matrimonial” beds, but at less than $75 per night for a double with bath, it felt like a royal bargain.

Curfew: The major drawback to convent lodging is the almost ubiquitous curfew. One night we took an evening walk, and, not thinking of the curfew, suddenly found ourselves at the Capitoline Hill less than half an hour before the 10:30 lockdown. Through a combination of bus-hopping and all-out running we made it in time. This one experience aside, the curfew simply wasn’t an issue. Most nights we were not only in bed but asleep well before the doors were locked. That way we were ready to get out and watch Rome wake up shortly after the doors were opened at 6 a.m.

Food

All of the convents we investigated include breakfast in the rate. In addition, many of them served noon and evening meals as well. San Giuseppe di Cluny requested that we reserve at either full pension (three meals) or half pension (two meals) rates, but it turned out to be negotiable. The food was institutional, but it was Italian institutional food, a significant improvement over its American counterpart. And dinners were bargain-priced. Since we were traveling with a 13-year-old, most evenings we were glad to be “at home.”

These days, according to Fathers Paul Robichaud and Greg Apparcel of Rome’s Santa Susanna Church, “The price of a double room in a moderately-priced hotel in Rome can change blood pressure readings in a minute.” And after having become Catholics for our recent visit we have no hesitation in passing on their advice: “Get thee to a nunnery.”

For More Information

Convent lodging is starting to show up in some of the budget guidebooks such as Rick Steves’ books and the “Cheap Sleeps” series. The following sources cover convent and monastery lodging in more detail:

GD LODGING IN ITALY'S MONASTERIES, 3rd (Guide to Lodging in Italy's Monasteries). This helpful and up-to-date book lists convents and monasteries from around Italy, including a dozen in Rome

Santa Susanna Church, the American Parish in Rome is a helpful website for visitors to Rome. Included are numerous recommendations for dining, as convent accommodations throughout Rome.

MonasteryStays.com offers a listing of apartments and rooms in Rome, many in Vatican city, some located in convents and monasteries.

 
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