“A dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there but becomes beckoningly real after you are gone,” John Steinbeck said of the Amalfi Coast. It could easily be said of the Monastero Santa Rosa, a monastery transformed into a luxury hotel in Italy. Tucked into the cliffs between Positano and Amalfi, the bright linen-colored monastery peers over the Tyrrhenian Sea below. Upon approach, the bell in the tower rings — a tradition from its monastic history which signaled the arrival of guests. Walk inside to the lobby balcony for the first glimpse of the carefully tended four tiers of gardens below and the panoramic vista of the sea beyond.
The 17th-century monastery was home to nuns who contributed much to the surrounding area. They were well known for their baked goods and for their medicines made from herbs grown on the convent grounds. In 1924 a Roman family bought the monastery and, while maintaining the architectural details, turned it into a hotel that became one of Italy’s thirty-nine castle hotels. The family operated the hotel for three decades. Then it sadly sat vacant, clinging to the cliffs along the Coast. In 2000, an American, seeing the property’s potential, purchased it and spent the next ten years lovingly restoring it into a luxury hotel.
The arched, amber-lit hallway leading to the rooms is quiet, simple, and sets a tone reminiscent of the history of the once peaceful, serene monastery.
Almost a spiritual overtone prevails. Even the small confessional room off the hall remains — most likely for guests to confess that as they have discovered the hotel is “the perfect balance of seclusion without solitude,” they do not, in fact, want to leave.
There are only 20 rooms, a mixture of suites and rooms that vary in size, and this limited number allows for a very personalized approach taken by the hotel staff. The arched, wooden door to each room is labeled with the name of one of the herbs grown in the gardens — herbs grown by the nuns for use in their apothecary.
The furnishings are elegant period pieces, and fine Italian white linen covers the beds. But the windows capture the focus. The windows open to an unobstructed view of the azure Tyrrhenian Sea ahead, the small fishing village of Conca Dei Marini below, and the picturesque Amalfi Coast on either side.
Scents of lemon, rosemary and lavender arouse the senses when strolling through the lush garden pathways.
Each level provides seating to relax or enjoy quiet conversation with other guests. On cool evenings, snuggle up by the outdoor fireplace.
Step into the lemon and rosemary scented spa and try the aromatic steam room, thermal bath, and hydro pool. Indulge in a private or couple’s spa treatment either inside or outside under the treatment garden’s pergola. Another favorite of guests is the dramatic infinity pool. Located on the lowest level it appears to virtually spill into the sea.
Ristorante Il Refetorio offers exquisitely prepared meals. Choose terrace dining with outstanding views of the Amalfi Coast or indoors under the vaulted ceiling dining area. The Chef creates regional cuisine using fresh ingredients from the surrounding area and a sommelier is available to complete the meal by assisting in pairing the perfect wine. True to Italian tradition, each meal is unhurried, multi-course, and a flavorful culinary experience. The traditional breakfast served each morning features a serving of sfogliatelle — the delicate, shell-shaped, filled pastry perfected initially by the nuns.
The library area which flows into the bar provides a soothing atmosphere to read, play a game of chess or sip a limoncello, or a glass of one of the many Italian wines offered, or perhaps a shot of the 1880 Cognac. A whiff of fresh-cut herbs is intoxicating as the bartender crafts signature cocktails using the garden’s herbs.
The surrounding area offers other places to explore. The Marisa Cuomo Winery is less than ten minutes away. A private or group wine tour and multi-course lunch with wine pairing is available. The cliffside winery boasts some vines that are over 100 years old — including some that crawl right out from under the highway above. Guests can also take a short drive to the enchanting Ravello — the city of music. Stroll through the Villa Cimbrone or the Villa Rufolo for expansive gardens and extraordinary views from this mountain top city.
For hikers, spend the day discovering the Sentiero degli Dei — the famed Path of the Gods. It follows ancient mule routes and provides an often-challenging hike but rewards with remarkable scenes of the Coast. Or hike down the hill to the charming fishing village of Conca Dei Marini with its white houses and multi-colored fishing boats.
After time spent exploring other areas along the Coast, return to the Monastero Santa Rosa to take in once again the elegant, peaceful surroundings and embrace the hotel’s saying — “la dolce far niente” — how sweet it is to do nothing.