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Europeans have long known a secret that Americans are just learning - that staying in convents and monasteries is much less expensive than even moderately priced hotels.
Typically, nightly rates at convents range anywhere from $10 to $50, and that includes breakfast. You can expect to be living among priests and nuns because these are working monasteries and convents, not "converted" buildings. Will you be expected to don robes and beads? Probably not - you'll be plied with more hospitality than religion in most places. Be advised, however, that there are some monasteries with very strict rules about speaking, fraternizing, and even attending Mass. Make sure you know these rules before you arrive.
So, what can you typically expect for you $10 to $50 per night? Accommodations vary but in general, luxury is not the norm. Spartan furnishings are standard and only a small percentage of convents and monasteries offer television or telephones in individual rooms. (What do you really need with these things anyway? You're on vacation in Italy!)
Most nunneries will also hold you to curfews, the same curfews that the priests and nuns observe. Before you start thinking this arrangement is painfully akin to life in a college dorm, be advised there are no rules about unmarried couples sharing rooms. Many convents and monasteries also have bars where you can get the wine or liqueurs of your choice - vineyards are often part of the grounds.
For more information about staying in convents and monasteries, you may want to read Bed and Blessings in Italy by June and Anne Walsh. The book will tell you how to find accommodations throughout Italy and what to expect once you arrive. Here's a brief list of places to stay in Liguria, with comments from In Italy:
Abbazia di Santa Maria della Castagna (Via Romana della Castagna 17, Genova Quarto; tel 011-39-10-336-292). Built on the spot where Napoleon imprisoned Pope Pius VII in 1809, this elegant villa is surrounded by a cedar forest about a mile from the sea, just south of Genoa. The 26 monks in residence are Sublacense Benedictines, members of an order that was founded in the nearby monastery of Finalpia. Single and double rooms are available in the convent's guest quarters.
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