Monasteries That Take in Travelers

If you are interested in the more spiritual aspects of a pilgrimage to Italy, this may be the best travel book you could find.

The Guide to Lodging in Italy's Monasteries gives practical and religious information about hundreds of monasteries and convents, and their guest houses, where travelers can “awaken each morning to church bells ringing out over sleepy villages and hill towns,” where saints walked in past centuries.

The book's first section describes places that offer hospitality to everyone “regardless of religion, with or without a spiritual purpose.” A second section describes places that welcome guests only “for retreat, vocational or other spiritual purposes.”

Actually, the second section is simply a list of institutions and their contact information. The first section, on the other hand, gives a lot of information about each monastery or convent. In some cases, especially when the location is in one of Italy's larger cities, the book adds information on the surrounding area. For example, after listing nine places you can stay in Venice, the book describes the canals, palaces, museums, and churches of the city.

My first choice of places to visit would be the Capuchin monastery in Manoppello in the Abruzzo region. Jesuit Father Heinrich Pfeiffer recently announced his research that establishes the true identity of this friary's Volto Santo (Holy Face), which the book calls “a sacred image of Christ's face.” Father Pfeiffer says the cloth, with its image of a man's face resembling the face on the Shroud of Turin, is Veronica's Veil (See “Veil of Veronica Found in Italian Abbey,” Register, June 20–26). The veil was lost from the Vatican during renovations in the 17th century.

The book adds that this monastery “is idyllically situated at the base of the forested Maiella Mountains in Maiella National Park. The Maiella is a massif of peaks and valleys that are often blanketed with wildflowers and pungent herbs. It is home to more than forty hermitages and primitive chapels.”

The Volto Santo is on display under glass at the monastery, which also has “a number of exquisite 17th century paintings,” according to the book.

The other place I would love to visit is Assisi, and there are several possibilities of places to stay. One is a hotel in Assisi called Domus Pacis, which is run by Franciscan friars. A second place is about 2.5 miles outside Assisi, the Hotel Cenacolo Fran-cescano “in the tiny town of Santa Maria degli Angeli.” This is the famous St. Mary of the Angels where Francis first established his order in 1211. The hotel “stands beside the enormous church of St. Mary of the Angels,” which houses the Potiuncula, the simple structure that was the first home for Francis and his earliest companions.

Wherever you go, the book notes that a great advantage of staying in Italy's monasteries and convents is the low price: “Rates range from a voluntary donation to about $30 per night. And many monasteries serve meals for just a few dollars more.”

The author also cautions potential travelers about the spiritual nature of these places: “It is important to remember that they are not hotels and should be regarded accordingly.” Even though they welcome any travelers who ask for a place to stay, still these monasteries are best approached as places of pilgrimage.

Gerry Rauch is an assistant editor of the Register.