Italy - Silvia
Silvia Marchetti

Inspiration • September 2015

Italian escapes

If you’re in need of peace and quiet, what better place than an ancient church, monastery or abbey, once home to the contemplative life and now lovingly restored and converted into a calm sanctuary. Rome-based reporter Silvia Marchetti selects six of her favourite restyled retreats


Grotte della Civita, Basilicata, southern Italy

Imagine waking up in a grotto where hermits took refuge in the Middle Ages, then having breakfast beneath the altar of a rock crypt while listening to Chopin. Le Grotte della Civita offers exactly such primitive allure. Ancient caves have been restored to create this romantic 18-room hotel. In the deluxe suite’s shower, the water gushes from a crack in the rock. 
Know this: Book the rupestrian church for a candlelit dinner with homemade pasta and sun-dried crispy chilli peppers.
Nearest airport: Bari


Borgo di Carpiano, Perugia, central Italy

Borgo di Carpiano offers a true religious experience: the castle was built by the father of Ubald, patron saint of the ancient town of Gubbio. The stone dwellings were restored by the current owners. You can read a book in the library – formerly the church – and relax in the salt pool while gazing over olive groves.
Know this: The spa is in a wooden gazebo, located in a natural setting.
Nearest airport: Rome


Relais Sant’Uffizio, Piedmont, northern Italy

Set in wine-rich Piedmont, Relais Sant’Uffizio was a monastery used as a location for tribunals during the Inquisition. Now, however, it is a corner of paradise. There is an excellent spa, and the restaurant’s traditional dishes often feature one of the region’s most famous ingredients, white truffle.
Know this: The Scuderie suite has the best view.
Nearest airport: Turin


Antico Convento dei Cappuccini, Sicily

At this property’s Cenobio restaurant, you’ll eat fresh produce from the nearby orchard, just like the friars did. Antico Convento dei Cappuccini, in south-eastern Sicily, features 40 monastery cells restyled into 23 designer rooms. From here you can tour the mesmerising Val di Noto region, a mix of Baroque, Greek and Arabic-style architecture.
Know this: The on-site Nosco cookery school gives lessons in Mediterranean cuisine.
Nearest airport: Catania


Hotel Monteconero, Marche, east coast central Italy

The serene Hotel Monteconero is a converted abbey seemingly suspended in mid-air. Set in a forest overlooking the Adriatic coast, the views are mind-blowing. Much of the external structure has been retained, including a Romanesque church. Enjoy the spa, pool and highly rated restaurant.
Know this: Don’t miss the beaches and picturesque fishing villages of Sirolo and Numana.
Nearest airport: Rome


La Locanda del Prete, Umbria, central Italy

Surrounded by rolling hills and olive groves, La Locanda del Prete is a vast estate where clergymen once lived. The country house has been converted into 10 fully equipped apartments, and within the village’s medieval fortress is a restaurant and well-stocked wine bar.
Know this: There is a cigar room stocked with 4,000 cigars.
Nearest airport: Rome 

This article has been tagged Destination, Hotels