Prayers Optional: A Vacation Spent at Italy's Religious Guesthouses

By McCauley, Mary Beth | The Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

Prayers Optional: A Vacation Spent at Italy's Religious Guesthouses


McCauley, Mary Beth, The Christian Science Monitor


Italy's Monasteries and convents offer a quiet cultural retreat to travelers.

We hear the Italian nuns chanting their prayers as we creep down the convent stairs each evening, heading out to find yet another heavenly setting in which to dine on still more of their country's divine abundance.

My 22-year-old daughter and I are staying in religious guesthouses while touring Italy, a popular option in the dozen or so years since several guidebooks sent the idea into the travel mainstream.

At most such places, guests are invited, but not expected, to pray with the hosts. And if Italian was our native tongue, we'd probably join in. But the lack of shared language makes us wary of becoming consumers of things spiritual, looking to check "vespers" off an itinerary. Already, choosing the convent option in a country centered on religion risks trivializing it in a grasp at authenticity. So we opt for dinner.

Kevin J. Wright, travel industry expert and author of "Europe's Monastery and Convent Guesthouses," estimates that hundreds of Italian monasteries and convents - most with only a dozen or two rooms to rent - take in many thousands of travelers each year. Low prices, notoriously clean rooms, a family feel, and the safety of the enclosures are the big draws. And though virtually all are owned by Roman Catholic communities, they shelter travelers of all faiths.

Eileen Barish, author of "The Guide to Lodging in Italy's Monasteries," is Jewish and likens the experience to staying in the home of a welcoming, non-Jewish friend. She drinks in the history, architecture, and even the religious imagery in the buildings, she says. "I go to the chapels when I'm there because they're so beautiful."

Rome, the "home office" for Catholic congregations worldwide, houses the greatest concentration of such lodgings. Taking in guests allows the communities to sustain themselves even as their ranks are thinning, and a public eager for new and different travel experiences - even the experience of reflection or silence or spiritual growth - is there to help, says Mr. Wright. He estimates convent and monastery rates to be at least one-third lower than comparable nonreligious lodgings. The houses vary greatly. Some offer little more than a bed and a hall bath. Others have air conditioning, Internet access, private baths, and in-room TVs - recent innovations made in response to market forces.

Mark Logan, of the online booking website monasterystays.com, says the United States, Canada, and Australia supply the lion's share of convent/monastery business, typically couples in their 50s who've already done the requisite guided tour of Italy, as well as families and budget-minded travelers of all ages.

No matter how welcome the income may be for the hosts, hospitality first and foremost emanates from a biblical mandate to welcome the stranger, explains Brother Richard Oliver, webmaster for the Order of St. Benedict, the community most directly associated with monastic hospitality. Even in the case of visitors who come without an overt religious purpose, this theology considers the mystery of God to be ever at work, he explains: "There's some reason they're doing this rather than a cheap motel. You never know what someone has to give."

As early as the 3rd century AD, the desert fathers made hospitality a priority. Later, Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, elaborated on it in his famous rule: "Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, 'I came as a guest, and you received Me' " (a paraphrase of Matt. 25:35).

The most traditional - and conservative - abbeys are run by monks and nuns of the Cistercian, Trappist, and Benedictine orders, and guests there are generally expected to participate in the community's spiritual life, Brother Richard explains, since their very presence suggests some desire for retreat, silence, or discernment. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Prayers Optional: A Vacation Spent at Italy's Religious Guesthouses
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.