Vacationing in a former convent may sound a bit austere—that is, until you experience Monastero Santa Rosa on Italy’s famous Amalfi Coast. This monastery-turned-hotel offers all the peaceful seclusion the sisters enjoyed, with none of the personal sacrifices. And though the popular coastline is studded with hotels, this distinctive destination—with its unmatched combination of five-star luxuries, natural beauty and centuries of character—is a serious standout.
Getting there might have you pressing your palms together in supplication. The main route through the craggy Amalfi coastline is Strada Statale 163—also known as “the road of 1,000 bends.” The ancient Roman-built drive is full of hairpin twists and turns, careening over steep precipices past sun-bleached villages and lemon groves for 50 miles, and is just barely wide enough for two cars to pass at some points. About 18 miles in sits Monastero Santa Rosa, perched on a cliff above the small fishing village of Conca dei Marini. The venue’s American owner Bianca Sharma spotted the nunnery’s ruins from a boat in 1999 and promptly bought the property. After a lengthy decade-long restoration, it opened as a luxury hotel for the 2012 season.
Much of the convent’s original 17th century architecture remains intact, thanks to Sharma’s careful conservation. Inside, reconfigured spaces pay thoughtful homage to the hotel’s heritage. Nuns’ quarters are cleverly combined into 20 unique rooms, some with private terraces or multiple levels. One of the largest is located in what was the sisters’ refectory. All feature fine Italian linens, an array of tasteful period furniture, and deep soaking tubs made from fine Jerusalem stone, in addition to everyday contemporary amenities like minibars, television, and WiFi. Some of the rooms have vaulted ceilings, private alfresco dining areas, and seafront balconies; others have housed famous names like Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco. The guest rooms exude comfort, and every conceivable wish is quickly taken care of by the attentive staff.
The tasteful restoration continues into Monastero Santa Rosa’s massive 750-foot state-of-the-art spa. Cavernous treatment rooms are carved from spaces once devoted to silent prayers, while the spa’s centerpiece, a vaulted tepidarium (warm relaxation room), is where the sisters made wine. There’s also a sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy pool, whirlpool footbaths, ice fountain and even programmable showers.
The real star of Monastero Santa Rosa is the knockout coastal view, and there’s a countless number of magical places for taking it in. From the convent’s highest point, an airy sunset terrace, guests can gaze as far as the buzzy nearby towns of Amalfi or Positano. There’s the cascade of tiered, expertly manicured semi-tropical gardens, beset with ocean-facing sun loungers, daybeds and cabanas. There’s the breezy dining terrace of the hotel Ristorante, where guests can enjoy the scenery while tasting exclusively sourced extra virgin olive oil produced right in Conca dei Marini. The most breathtaking spot is floating within the curved cliff’s edge infinity pool while surveying the Gulf of Salerno some 660-feet below.
After whiling away the hours on these sacred grounds, be sure to unburden your soul at the large antique wooden confessional resting in the main hallway. It cheekily invites guests “make a confession” by way of a written feedback for the hotel.
Monastero Santa Rosa is located in the town of Conca dei Marini on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Nightly room and suite rates range from $500 to $2,400. The resort will open for the 2015 season on 17 April.