Cost and character
I was in Europe for a few months and the idea of staying in a monastery guest house had a fascinating spiritual aura about it. And not just because the budget. In fact the cost had little to do with the desire. It was more about authentic character and immersion in history, as well as the wish to be a momentary part of a long tradition, even going into the chapel to experience the music and the silence, and the deep sense of prayer and tradition.
My travels were a heady mixture of the secular and the sacred, which of course is Europe in a nutshell. To deliberately add a level of spirituality by actually staying in monasteries would seem to enhance and deepen the whole . To choose to stay in a monastery is not so much counter cultural but hyper cultural. So much of Europe’s history is tied up with religion, so the buildings and the monastic communities could tell tales beyond the mainstream tourist guides.
Monasteries are usually quite easy to find – Most have occupied their piece of land for long enough to be part of the cultural and geographical landscape – many are tucked in valleys or crouched on hill tops, easy for wanderers and pilgrims to seek them out. Staying in urban monasteries gives you an insider’s view of the area, and quite literally a key for those secretive doors and hidden courtyards.
Before monasteries became IT savvy, there were a few books published which I tried to use. But the nature of print publishing is that it dates quickly, and may of the details and contacts were not correct. And there were few maps. I spent hours with my atlas trying to work out where places were .
Thank goodness then for a new website www.monasterystays.com . This wonderful website lists over 500 monasteries in Italy alone in all the cities and enticing towns and villages you would ever want to visit.
Here are photos, google maps and all the information you need to plan a fantastic holiday in Italy. The site is a kind of agency where you choose the place you want, but will be offered another option if it is not available. Started by three friends who wanted to coordinate all they had learnt about this kind of accommodation, Monastery Stays is easy to navigate and full of useful information. The accommodation is honestly described as
- ‘adequate and comfortable’
- ‘ an authentic slice of Italian life’.
All rooms are booked with private bathrooms. These may be ensuite or privately accessed adjacent to your room (usually depends on the age and design of the building). Prices vary but are less than most commercial B&Bs.
I love their advice:’ Do not expect luxury – that is not a monastery’s purpose – expect clean, well presented simple and functional rooms with warm hospitality from your hosts.
Look to longer stays in less destinations to maximise your experience and explore a location from a peaceful base.
What better way to explore Italy ?
For monastery hospitality in other countries, see www.monasteriesofspain.com. Prices in Spain are about 20 euros a night
Good Night and God Bless
Another website listing a whole range of monastery accommodation in many countries is www.goodnightandgodbless.com
Watch the Good Night and God Bless video on YouTube below
Once you start looking at these sites and following a few links, your travel plans will have expanded and your expectations deepened. The journey may well become a pilgrimage and who knows what you may find.