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Monastero Santa Rosa: Where excess and Catholic simplicity go hand in hand

By on 25 June 2013 in Travel

Monastero Santa Rosa: Where excess and Catholic simplicity go hand in hand
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Nuns. I’ve always loved a nun.

Is it an admiration of the quiet sacrifice, devotion and denial I fall so short of, or the combined cultural phenomena of Mother Theresa, Sister Wendy and Julie Andrews in my youth? Either way, after spending a few days at the Amalfi coast’s Monastero Santa Rosa, I now have an even deeper respect for them. After all, the sisters lived in quiet solitude on this spectacular clifftop nook, perhaps seeking divine inspiration from the perfect view, unquestioned for decades. Things didn’t end well sadly – on arrival at their former home, I was told of the nuns being evicted by zealous local government officials in the 1800s. However, so jawdropping is the position and aspect of the building that frankly I can imagine the Mother Superior clinging on by her unmanicured fingernails.

For, things have changed. In the past few years, this old nunnery has been transformed into a luxury hotel of breathtaking perfection. To sing the praises of the newly reopened Monastero Santa Rosa is not to use plain verse; superlatives are insufficient. If its lone offering was to walk through her doors, hear the bell rung in your honour, step a few paces forward and stand at the geranium-coated tiny balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, that alone might be enough. But needless to say that is the beginning of an extraordinary experience I can wholeheartedly recommend to readers of the Guide.

Lying in the Santa Maria Novella-salt-scented bath is to discover the essence of hotel luxury

There may be suites of lavish size concealed amidst it’s thick, cool walls, but while my room, with its muted decor and domed ceilings was comparatively modest by many hotel standards, it dawned on me that in the context of the building’s history, it was the height of excess: it was the combined cells of two nuns. To wake and see the sun glinting on the sea from beneath tangled sheets is of course a wonderful treat wherever you are, but lying in the Santa Maria Novella-salt-scented bath with this unique view – the jaw-dropping Amalfi coast as it winds towards the writer’s paradise of Ravello – is to discover the essence of hotel luxury.

IMG_1470This sensation isn’t exactly dulled by spending a quiet afternoon by the infinity pool, either, if I’m honest. This is where the quiet, immaculate service of the Monastero staff comes into its own, for in such a scenario one tends to have a craving for all manner of things that tend to be the exclusive preserve of the Italian holiday. An 11:30 am Aperol Spritz. A 1 pm swirl of spaghetti con vongole (without the shells) washed down with a local fruity vino bianco. A 3 pm fresh lemon granita. A 3:30 pm extensive back-pummelling/exfoliating facial/hydrotherapy extravaganza in the we’ve-thought-of-everything Spa. A 6 pm Mediterranean-evening- sunshine condensation-clad gin and tonic. Such is the manner in which a day at the Monastero Santa Rosa can swiftly and gloriously pass.

For heaven’s sake, there was even a confession booth near my room

Then of course, despite all of the above, one feels a yearning for an evening meal. If you’re getting the general drift of all this it’s perhaps a given that the restaurant is extraordinary and gastronomic, complete with chef of world renown and dishes of inventiveness and splendour. Prior to this, as one walks to the table, the knowledge that one is about to part with at least £250 (for two) is soothed rather by the echoing, almost mournful chanting music echoing through the corridors. It was for me a wryly amusing note amid a hotel where excess and Catholic simplicity go hand in hand. For heaven’s sake, there was even a confession booth near my room. It was unmanned, alas, which was possibly an unusual staffing oversight given that while honeymooners abounded among the guests, I sensed that for one or two, their motives in joining their rather older companions at the Monastero may not have been entirely pure.

I’d say run, don’t walk, to book your holiday at the Monastero Santa Rosa, but perhaps an solemn, if efficient, procession is the most appropriate pace.

Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa, Via Roma 2, 84010 Conca dei Marini, Salerno, Amalfi Coast, Italy, Tel +39 0898321199, Email


Monastero Santa Rosa: Where excess and Catholic simplicity go hand in hand

Richard Chapman takes himself off to a nunnery, which may well be the best place for him.

Photos by Richard Chapman

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As Richard Chapman recalls, he started his graphic design career aged nine at his grandmother's typewriter. This spurred a life-long love of left hand justification. He became an accidental entrepreneur in 2003 when he started his own design consultancy and this has led to all manner of fantastic opportunities, not least the one confronting you now - the design of The Prodigal Guide.

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  • The Prodigal Fool

    A hotel with its own confession booth!? This place was custom made for us. Everything you need ‘on site’.