Choosing accommodation is always a bit of a punt but it’s a whole nother ballgame staying in Italy’s religious accommodation.
I had thought it would be a wise thing to do, being a woman travelling alone, trying to keep costs down and for finding like-minded travelers. (See my post, ‘Happy, Cheap & Rich in Culture’, for my early fantasies about what I thought it would be like: https://wordpress.com/post/howfarishappy.wordpress.com/73).
Generally, the rooms were clean, spacious and had a similar feel to a dormitory. The beds were often short and fairly firm with lightweight bedding. There was never tea or coffee making facilities, never a TV and never a bath. You are also paying per person rather than for a room which can make them more expensive for a family or even a couple. Here is an example of some pricing ion Rome:
Double room with private bathroom: 50 – 94 euros
Single room with private bathroom: 35 – 56 euros
(You may be able to get a double room in a hotel for 60 euro for a couple and possibly have more creature comforts).
Palermo, Collegio di Maria (http://www.conventisicilia.it/#!convento-di-palermo-eng/l5zxm), was well located for the sights, and didn’t offer breakfast but did give me a chit for a cafe close by. The nuns were very kind especially as my luggage was lost in getting to Sicily. They sorted out the delivery once found and even carried it up the stairs to my room for me. I may have even hugged a nun out of shear joy when she let me know my bag had been found. (I was beginning to despair of ever seeing it again and was making a list of what I would have to buy). What relief… I did have one awkward moment here, as no one had instructed me that there was a door release button hidden on the wall. I spent quite some time trying to fight my way out on my first morning. I eventually knocked on another persons door to ask for help and they weren’t at all friendly? This convent has a sister convent in Cefalu and that looks very wonderful from the pictures on their site.
I had an upstairs room, the metal grill by the yellow car was the entrance and the two bomb pictures are of the corner of the road. I presume never fixed since WW2.
Siracuse, Casa del Pellegrino, (http://www.hoteldelsantuario.it/), is in the less attractive part of this city but well located for public transport, a supermarket and the Archeological Park Neapolis. (http://www.siracusaturismo.net/public/cosa_vedere/Parco_Archeologico_della_Neapolis_Siracusa.asp).
The crazy looking church across the road from where I’m staying in Siracuse, and these other two pictures of the water are on Ortigia where you should be staying.
It looks from the outside like a casino/hotel and inside is a reception with decidedly non religious looking reception staff. They have a restaurant and offer a very nice breakfast with your room. However, if I were returning to Siracuse, without a doubt I would go for the Albergo Domus Mariae on Ortigia Island. This island is simply gorgeous and where you will spend nearly all your time whilst here. I didn’t choose it because of the cost but they even look to have a Spa and pool… http://www.domusmariaebenessere.com/en/domus-mariae-wellness-center.htm. Nice.
It was just a delight to go on up to Taormina and stay at the very unreligious Hostel Taormina, (http://www.hosteltaormina.com/), in my own wee apartment.
Next religious stop was in Sorrento. ( http://www.la-culla.com/). The convent is a 10-15 minute walk from the train but easy to find on the main road. It is a lovely building and the views from the roof terrace are incredibly beautiful. There is a panoramic view of the ocean with the Sorrentine peninsula and Capri away to the left and Naples to the right. Breakfast is included. This was by far and away the most expensive place I stayed in Italy at around 80 euro per night.
The terrible picture of me, (not the one in the head covering), is because there was no hair dryer and my hair straightener’s european adapter didn’t fit the socket! They do a great breakfast but I broke the cornflake hopper.
I had my only hotel stay in Naples, (http://www.starhotels.com/en/our-hotels/terminus-naples/), which was luxury on the doorstep of abject poverty. It’s a strange mix to step past homeless people and beggars outside termini station through revolving doors into opulence. They do a delicious breakfast and the proximity to the train and metro is spitting distance. I didn’t choose a convent or monastery here as I couldn’t find one near the city.
So Rome and into the Istituto Sacro Cuore. It is located really well right opposite the Termini Station but I found it to be the most depressing stay I had. The room felt like a prison cell. My neighbour sounded very unwell coughing a lot through the night and the walls were paper thin. The bomb went off in Paris while I was here. It was miserable. On a positive note they do breakfast here.
I’m so depressed here that I am still in bed.
They try to make you feel better with a sugar rush for breakfast.
I cancelled my next convent and went instead to a small apartment so I could cook and watch TV and cheer myself up. (http://roma-resort-termini.rometravelhotel.com/en/). This was the happiest time I had in Italy. I came for 4 nights and stayed for 8. I had a kettle, mini fridge, big TV, wifi, elements and pots, a giant bed, walking distance of all transport, supermarkets, an Eataly, tonnes of restaurants, shopping , a laundrette…
Facebook post on arrival: After the last 5 dire nights at sacro cuore monastery (which probably reflected my state of hormones) I have died and gone to heaven in my own gorgeous little apartment with a kitchen! So much happier already!!!
The price started out at 65 euro and dropped as I stayed on because it was very quiet post Paris bomb. By the end I was only paying 45 a night.
My last stay was Casa Il Rosario. (http://www.casailrosarioroma.it/ilrosario/index.php?lang=en). This is a fabulous spot for being minutes walk from Piazza Venezia, the Capitoline Museum, Il Vittoriano, the Forum, the Colosseum. You are really on the doorstep of everything. It is a nice area with some funky shopping nearby. The breakfast here is basic but there is a nice rooftop terrace to have a quiet lunch, (and watch the nuns across the street hanging out their washing ;), who knew what nuns underwear was like).
All of the religious accommodation can be booked through Monastery Stays, http://www.monasterystays.com/. This is what I did, but bear in mind, you will pay a whopping fee, and then it turns out, you will also pay a little extra each night than what you would have if you had booked it your self which was really annoying.