Seeing as how Italy is home to the international headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, it only stands to reason that the country would be dotted with monasteries and convents, which it is. And if you know anything about monasteries and convents, many have a tradition of taking in weary travelers (often pilgrims). Today, that trend continues as many convents and monasteries have opened their doors to travelers of all faiths as something akin to hostels.
While finding Italian convents and monasteries to stay in can be a challenge (they don’t always have websites, and often aren’t listed in guidebooks), if you’re on a tight budget it’s a great idea to consider. Some have strict rules about unmarried men and women sleeping in different parts of the building, early curfews, early wake-up calls to prayer (sometimes required) and the like – but if you read all the rules and you know you can follow them, you’re in luck.
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On the plus side, beyond the fact that the price is usually dirt cheap, the buildings you’ll be staying in are sometimes historic, beautiful buildings that you’d never get to see the inside of otherwise. You’re also going to get a warm welcome, a meal (often), and – especially important for women traveling alone – a real feeling of security.
So, once you’re seriously considering staying in convents and monasteries, your best bet is to pick up a copy of “Bed and Blessings” by June and Anne Walsh. It’s the only book I know of that covers convents and monasteries in Italy that have opened their doors to overnight guests, and while it might not be as current as a website would be, it’s an excellent place to start. If you’re still investigating the idea but haven’t settled on it yet, see if your local library has a copy of the book – flipping through it might help you make your decision.
See this article and this one for a few more things to consider when thinking about staying at an Italian monastery or convent. And for another off-the-beaten-path accommodation option, don’t forget to look into staying in an Italian agriturismo, too.