Italy’s Monastero Santa Rosa, located between Amalfi Coast and Positano, somehow manages to stand out from the pack in an area already replete with luxury hotels. Not for its superb accommodations and amenities (though yes, it has those), but for its careful consideration of its building’s spectacular past. By Stacey Leasca
“I caught my first glimpse of the property while on vacation with my sons in 2000 and was instantly captivated by its structure, cliffside location, and expansive views of the Amalfi Coast,” owner Bianca Sharma told Travel + Leisure. “I knew it would make a fabulous hotel. From there, I embarked on a decade-long journey to renovate and bring a new lease of life to the property — while ensuring we honoured its history — and finally opened Monastero Santa Rosa in 2012.”
Here’s a look inside the luxury hotel on Amalfi Coast
It’s cliched but true to say it’s easy to see why Sharma fell hard and fast for the place. After what feels like hundreds of switchback turns on the 90-minute drive from Naples, each with a view more beautiful than the last, the storied property appears. Originally a Dominican monastery constructed in the 17th century, it hovers over a cliff that drops straight down to the fishing village of Conca dei Marini. Its stone-coloured exterior helps it blend seamlessly into its surroundings, only given away by the bright yellow lemon trees dotting its manicured lawns. In fall, red pomegranates hang among them, ready for picking.
The property acted as a convent for some time, and pieces of its past remain, including the bell guests once rang when leaving items for the nuns who lived there. A small turnstile still sits at the entrance, where the nuns would return the favour with their fresh-baked sfogliatelle, a delicious ricotta-filled pastry perfected over generations. Now, it acts as the perfect station for welcome drinks awaiting thirsty guests. There’s also a confessional booth for those who need to get something off their chest in private. But that’s not all.
“When I first took over Monastero Santa Rosa, our team found several items left behind by the previous owners of the hotel, the Caterina family,” Sharma said. “One item, in particular, was especially noteworthy — they had kept an official letter from the White House thanking the family for hosting Jackie Kennedy for lunch at the property.”
Sharma was moved by the story of Sister Rosa Pandolfi, a descendant of the noble family Pontone di Scala, who was gifted the church of Santa Maria di Grado, which sat in ruins on the land. Pandolfi thankfully had the means to repair it and to build a monastery adjacent to it, which was completed and dedicated to St. Rose of Lima in 1681.
“It was extremely important to me to preserve as much of the monastic heritage as we could throughout the renovation process. I worked closely with a team of local architects, engineers, and historical authorities to maintain the beauty and integrity of the property,” she said. “We were able to keep several unique features from the monastery’s original structure, including the authentic vaulted ceilings and arched windows of the nun’s rooms, which were used to create our 20 rooms and suites.”
There are still plenty of modern amenities to indulge in while staying at the Monastero (don’t worry, gluttony doesn’t count as a sin here), including its dazzling infinity pool that appears to fall off the face of the cliff and into the matching blue waters below.
There’s also a culinary program headed by chef Alfonso Crescenzo, including Ristorante il Refettorio, a Michelin-star restaurant tucked along its own terrace above the pool. Don’t miss the carciofo e totanetti, a confit artichoke served with buttery smooth potatoes and squid.
It’s a hotel you don’t really even have to leave to immerse yourself in Italian culture. But, if you can, use the provided transfer to the town of Amalfi, just a few minutes away. From there, you can easily hop on a ferry to Positano, or better yet, keep your rental car handy to make the famed drive yourself, all while knowing you can go back to the hotel and have someone waiting to warmly greet you upon arrival.
“I first discovered Monastero Santa Rosa with my family, and as such, it was important to keep that feeling at the very heart of each stay. Most of our talented staff have been with the hotel for years, which helps foster the familial environment that guests are continuously greeted with throughout their time with us,” Sharma said. “It’s my hope that the entire experience soothes the soul and grants the opportunity to completely unplug from reality, if only for a little while.”
See more about the hotel, and inquire about current rates, here.
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Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy of Monastero Santa Rosa