Spend the night where great saints laid their heads amidst beautiful art and architecture.
Any Catholic visiting Italy probably has a few monasteries listed as part of their touring bucket list. But what about spending the night in a centuries-old monastic complex? This idea is more achievable than you think, thanks to those monastic orders that make hospitality part of the services they offer to the wider community. Here is a list of five historic monasteries where you can also spend the night as a guest.
Abbey of Farfa, Latium
This stunning Benedictine abbey located near the Farfa River in Latium, near Rome, was built in 608 in a mix of Gothic and Romanesque design. On top of being an important site for religious pilgrimages, it is a national historical monument, as it hosted Charlemagne during the weeks that preceded his coronation as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in Rome on December 25, 800. Following the Benedictine rule that calls for providing hospitality to travelers, the monastery offers visitors the option to spend one or two nights in one of the six rooms within the monks’ secluded area (reserved for men only) or in one of the eight external rooms (all genders allowed). For more information and booking you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Francis of the Desert, Venice Lagoon, Veneto
Located within Venice’s lagoon, the picturesque St. Francis of the Desert island is home to a 13th-century monastery considered by locals as one the region’s hidden treasures. In 1220 St. Francis of Assisi choose the island, which at the time was owned by nobleman Jacopo Michiel, as a place to rest, contemplate and pray after his trip to the Middle East. When Michiel died, he donated the island to the Franciscan Friars so they could build a convent. Today, friars welcome visitors for daily visits as well as stays of one or two nights. For more information and booking you can email: email@example.com.
La Verna Monastery, Tuscany
Nestled between the trees of the Foreste Casentinesi National Park, the monastery La Verna is one of Italy’s most important religious sites. It is believed to be the location where St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata on September 14, 1224. A first chapel was built by order of St. Francis in 1216 and was later expanded in 1250 by order of Pope Innocent IV and officially consecrated in 1260. Today, thousands of pilgrims visit the sanctuary every year as part of the St. Francis’ Way pilgrimage, which starts in the town of Montepaolo Dovadola, in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, and ends in Assisi, St. Francis’ hometown. Visitors can arrange overnight stays for the price of 60 euros per night. For more information and booking you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost: €60 per night
Convent of the Capuchin Friars, Monterosso al Mare, Liguria
Located on top of a cliff that offers a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea, this convent is one the treasures of the Cinque Terre, literally “five lands,” a picturesque part of the Italian riviera that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1622 and consecrated the following year, it contains many important artworks, including a painting of the crucifixion by Dutch master Van Dyck and a portrait of San Girolamo the Penitent by Genoese painter Luca Cambiaso. Capuchin Friars have had custody of the convent for the past 400 years and offer visitors the option of staying overnight and engaging in spiritual retreats. For more information and booking: email@example.com
Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Siena, Tuscany
Located just south of Siena, this monastery was donated to Benedictine friars in 1313 by Bernardo Tolomei, a local nobleman who converted to the order. It is one of Tuscany’s most beloved destinations, thanks to its rich art collections, including frescoes by renowned Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli, its daily Gregorian chants, and its refectory, which serves delicious Tuscan dishes. Visitors can come in for day-visits or stay overnight in one of the 40 rooms of the 16th-century residency that are reserved for guests. For more information and booking you can email: casaospitiSB@monteolivetomaggiore.it