Staying in an Italian convent

You don't have to take vows of chastity and poverty or wear those itchy woolen robes to shack up in an Italian convent for as little as $30. You don't even have to be particularly religious.

There are religious guesthouses scattered all over Europe, including the one attached to the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli in Venice (+39-041-522-4077, are religious guesthouses scattered all over Europe, including the one attached to the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli in Venice (+39-041-522-4077, However, it's proof that religious lodgings aren't always the cheapest: this one charges €134 for a double room (still not bad, by Venice standards).

Many convents in Italian cities and towns run guest houses set up and administered something like a bare-bones hotel.

These convent hotels are most widely available in major cities and places of pilgrimage, particularly Rome and Assisi.

Convent guesthouses are often designed to host pilgrims—from church trips to solo folks seeking enlightenment—but are open to anyone of any religious persuasion.

Usually, they just request that you respect their community and its values—be quiet, attend major masses, avoid throwing keg parties, that sort of thing.

Not only is this one of the ultimate budget lodging options, it's also a great cultural experience, and a chance to get yourself out of your own head for a day or two, no matter what your religious affiliation or beliefs.

Take a day or two to empty your mind and cleanse your soul. Wander the gardens. Sniff the flowers. If invited, eat in the rectory with the sisters. Contemplate the country you've been visiting, your life, God, that itchy rash that developed since you stopped washing out your clothes every night, whatever.

What is is like to stay in a convent?

The Foresteria Valdese in VeniceAcross town from Don Orione, the Foresteria Valdese in Venice is a fantastic cheap religious hostelry run by the Waldesians. It has both private rooms and shared dorms (the Post-It on the door there is letting you know how many bunks are left in the boys and girls dorms, respectively), and the kicker is that many of them are covered in 18th century frescoes and overlook a canal, and the prices start at $46 a person. There's much more on this remarkable hostelry on the Venice hotels section.

Expect small rooms, battered functional furnishings, few amenities (private baths are common, though not guaranteed; TV and room telephone are rare), and a décor that begins and ends with the crucifix nailed to the wall above your bed.

Speaking of beds, the Brady Bunch bedroom revolution hasn't hit convents. Like a 1950s sitcom, the beds are narrow twins with a healthy, holy amount of space between them (though double beds are occasionally an option for married couples). Unmarried couples will not be allowed to share a room.

Nuns are like anybody else. Some are kindly; some are sourpusses. The best strategy is to treat them with respect and a smile, and accept with good grace their many rules, like curfew (usually falls between 10pm and midnight), early checkout (by 10am), and keeping relatively quiet (24/7).

How much does it cost to stay in a convent in Italy?

Convents usually charge somewhere between hostel and hotel rates. Rates for two can range from €40 to €200, with a sweet spot around €50–€100, prayers for your immortal soul included. Often, these rates include a continental breakfast. In some cases, you can get a simply, hearty family-style dinner as well for a modest price (€11 to €30).

Where can I find a convent to stay in?

Many Italian towns have at least one convent that takes in guests, and you're spoilt for choice in major pilgrimage sites like Rome and Assisi—though also in stiff competition against church groups for bed space.

How to find a convent with guest accommodations in Italy

Ask local tourism offices; do lots of Googling.

There are several guidebooks to religious lodgings:

There are also several good online resources:

  • Church of Santa Susanna ( is Rome's American parish (and it holds a place in my heart, since it served as my public library when I was an adolescent living in the Eternal City), has a remarkably useful Website that includes a page on convent accommodations across Italy, with the going rates and contact info for institutions in Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice, San Gimignano, and San Giovanni Rotondo (where Padre Pio preached in Apulia).
  • ( is a much more complete but confusing site, and available only in Italian. Here's what you need to know: Under "kind" try each of: "casa di accoglienza," "foresteria," "casa per ferie," and "casa vacanze."
  • ( is a booking site that reserves rooms at 320 properties (monasteries, convents, and other religious guesthouses) throughout Italy. It can help you avoid any language barriers and occasional deposit requirements (which often must be made through an Italian bank), and their criteria ensure you will have a private bathroom, however they do charge a modest fee. (How much of a fee? I can't tell you. I've asked several times and they refuse to reveal it.)
  • Several major monastic and conventual orders list retreat programs and guesthouses online, including the Benedictines ( and Dominicans (

Tips & links

Convent links & resources
Other lodging links & resources
Useful Italian
Useful Italian phrases and terms for lodging

English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a hotel un albergo oon al-BEAR-go
...a B&B un bed-and-breakfast oon bet hand BREK-fust
...a rental room un'affittacamera oon ah-feet-ah-CAH-mair-ra apartment for rent un appartamento oon ah-part-tah-MENT-toh
...a farm stay un agriturismo oon ah-gree-tour-EES-moh
...a hostel un ostello oon oh-STEHL-loh
How much is...? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
a single room una singola OO-nah SEEN-go-la
double room for single use [will often be offered if singles are unavailable] doppia uso singola DOPE-pee-ya OO-so SEEN-go-la
a double room with two beds una doppia con due letti OO-nah DOPE-pee-ya cone DOO-way LET-tee
a double room with one big bed una matrimoniale OO-nah mat-tree-moan-nee-YAAL-lay
triple room una tripla OO-nah TREE-plah
with private bathroom con bagno cone BAHN-yoh
without private bathroom senza bagno [they might say con bagno in comune—"with a communal bath"] SEN-zah BAHN-yoh
for one night per una notte pair OO-nah NOH-tay
for two nights per due notti pair DOO-way NOH-tee
for three nights per tre notti pair tray NOH-tee
Is breakfast included? É incluso la prima colazione? ay in-CLOO-soh lah PREE-mah coal-laht-zee-YOAN-nay
Is there WiFi? C'é WiFi? chay WHY-fy?
May I see the room? Posso vedere la camera? POH-soh veh-DAIR-eh lah CAH-mair-rah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Is there a cheaper one? C'é una più economica? chay OO-nah pew eh-ko-NO-mee-kah

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