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Divine Digs

10 Converted Monasteries
  • Castel Monastero

    Castel Monastero

  • AC Palacio De Santa Ana

    AC Palacio De Santa Ana

  • Kruisheren Hotel

    Kruisheren Hotel

  • The Augustine

    The Augustine

  • Casadonna Reale

    Casadonna Reale

  • Abbaye de Talloires

    Abbaye de Talloires

  • Sant Pere del Bosc Hotel & Spa

    Sant Pere del Bosc Hotel & Spa

  • Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa

    Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa

  • Hotel Monasterio

    Hotel Monasterio

  • Pousada do Crato

    Pousada do Crato

August, 2013

Adjective inflation is a real problem in the travel business — we see the word “divine” applied to just about everything: good chocolate, fluffy pillows, strong coffee…. These ten hotels, however, come a little closer to the real meaning of the word, turning centuries-old monasteries into modern-day bastions of serenity. We think all of these hotels would be worthy of a pilgrimage.

1.

Castel Monastero
Castelnuovo Berardenga, Italy — First it was an 11th-century village. Then it became a monastery, complete with an incredible cellar full of Chianti. Now, roughly a thousand years on, Castel Monastero is a high-end luxury hotel, still sitting magisterially on a hill in the countryside beyond Siena.
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2.

AC Palacio de Santa Ana
Valladolid, Spain — Given its quiet, scenic perch at the edge of the Pisuerga River, this 18th-century monastery could easily have kept things rustic — all the more so given that, with rooms starting around seventy euros a night, one could almost afford to stay here on alms. Instead, they’ve fitted the interiors with glossy monochrome minimalist décor, lending the centuries-old building the air of an urban boutique.
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3.

Kruisherenhotel Maastricht
Maastricht, Netherlands — What happens when you fill a monumental Gothic church and 15th-century monastery with sleek modern furnishings by top Dutch designers, lighting installations by the German artist Ingo Maurer, and bits and bobs by the likes of Le Corbusier and Philippe Starck? Somehow, it turns out, you end up with what feels like a quintessentially Dutch design hotel, and one whose handsome modern rooms feel anything but ascetic.
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4.

The Augustine
Prague — Sure, she placed some modern furniture beneath all those gothic arches and baroque swirls, but for the most part Olga Polizzi left the seven historic buildings that make up the Augustine intact — including the 13th-century St. Thomas Monastery. In the Brewery Bar, where stalactites and stalagmites testify to centuries of use, it feels like the ghost of one of the monastery’s first monks might pull up a seat at any moment, ready to reminisce about the good olde days over a meditative pint.
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5.

Casadonna Reale
Castel di Sangro, Italy — Set in the rugged hills of Abruzzo, this fifteen-hundred-year-old monastery isn’t the first place one expects to find an über-minimalist six-room hotel and destination restaurant. Helmed by a chef with a couple of Michelin stars to his name, it’s clearly a labor of love. Between the delicious visual confections on offer in the restaurant and some unexpectedly luxurious touches, like deep egg-shaped tubs in the bedrooms, it’s very much worth the trip.
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6.

Abbaye de Talloires
Talloires, France — Dating back to the days when the French monastic life was a scandalously cushy one, this former Benedictine monastery still has the air of a privileged retreat in the Alps. The Prior’s room, with its 17th-century parquet floors, is the most original, but every room comes with a fine, contemplative view of pristine Lac d’Annecy.
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7.

Sant Pere del Bosc Hotel & Spa
Lloret de Mar, Catalonia — With its nineteen sunny, impeccably designed suites, this hilltop hotel on Spain’s Costa Brava has come a long way since its humble early days as a Benedictine monastery in the 9th century. In the Coral suite, set within the tower atop the building, the bathroom alone has a dressing room and a reading corner, as well as a freestanding cast iron tub with views of the Mediterranean.
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8.

Hacienda Zorita
Valverdon-Salamanca, Spain — It’s been quite a long time since one Christopher Columbus stopped by this former monastery on his way to the New World, but Hacienda Zorita still hasn’t broken its centuries-old spell, with tranquil riverside views, exposed wooden beams and stone walls whose thickness is measured by the foot. And in the gorgeous Chapel of San Nicolás de las Viñas, there’s enough good wine, aging in oak barrels piled right up to the altar, to satisfy an expedition bankrolled by the Spanish crown.
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9.

Hotel Monasterio
Cusco — By Cusco standards, the three-hundred-year-old former colonial seminary housing Hotel Monasterio is a relative upstart. This, after all, is the oldest living city in the Americas, the one-time capital of the vast Incan empire, and a place whose wealth of architectural ruins needs no introduction. But in the hotel world, at least, Hotel Monasterio is a classic, an Orient Express–run beauty that’s been coddling lucky Machu Picchu–bound travelers for nearly half a century.
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10.

Pousada do Crato
Crato, Portugal — Over the past seven centuries, Pousada do Crato has had stints as a castle, a Duke’s palace, a monastery and convent; and it even turns up in a footnote or two of Portuguese history. Today, pastimes at the hotel still lean toward the medieval, with falconry, hunting and fishing among them, though no one will judge you for indulging in a modern-day laze by the sparkling pool, sipping vinho verde beneath the shade of a big white parasol.
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