Story by Melanie Votaw,
Photos by Melanie Votaw and Monastero Santa Rosa
MONASTERO SANTA ROSA HOTEL & SPA
Via Roma 2
84010 Conca dei Marini
Amalfi Coast, Italy
There is a lot to love about Monastero Santa Rosa, the new luxury hotel (as of May 2012) on the Italian Amalfi Coast. It’s the gardens that are my favorite part of this property, however. They’re spectacular, and I don’t use that word frivolously.
Four levels of gardens below the hotel building overlook a 180-degree Mediterranean panoramic view that includes the nearby village of Amalfi. Not even on Santorini have you seen anything like it. Each level contains majestic white stepping stones with fragrant flowers everywhere. The stunning infinity pool is right on the edge of the cliff, and there is a hot tub next to it where you can relax and look out on the vista. There are so many places to sit and lounge that you could get lost in the gardens and not see another soul for a long time. After all, the hotel only has 20 rooms and suites.
Located in the tiny village of Conca dei Marini about a ten-minute drive from the town of Amalfi and a 1-1/2-hour drive or 50-minute ferry ride from Naples, Monastero Santa Rosa is right on the Amalfi Coast’s Blue Highway with its famous views and hairpin turns. If you’d rather not make that drive (I recommend hiring a driver rather than trying to do it yourself), you can spring for a helicopter that will drop you right below the hotel. If you’re worried you’ll miss the views while in the air, never fear. The helicopter will take you right over Mount Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii.
One of the nicest things about this hotel is that it’s largely secluded but very close to the action. Their driver took me to Amalfi, where I could take a bus, a ferry, or hire a car or yacht to other points on the Coast. Amalfi has a lovely cathedral, by the way, that is a rare example in Italy of Moorish architecture. Ravello is also especially close, and ferries from Amalfi can easily take you to the Isle of Capri, Positano, or Naples.
The owner of Monastero Santa Rosa is Bianca Sharma, an American who fell in love with the property when visiting Italy more than a decade ago, and as luck would have it, the building and grounds were for sale. It had fallen into disrepair after a long history that began in the 17th century as a convent. Sharma had research conducted to find out what indigenous plants were grown there by the nuns, and she has had many of the same plants installed in the garden. She also named each of the rooms after one of those plants.
There is still evidence of the convent throughout the property. A window-grate remains that allowed the sequestered nuns to speak to people without being seen. There is also an interesting contraption with shelves that swings around. The nuns sold herbs to the community, so they could put the herbs in the contraption, swing it around, and deliver the remedies without making contact with the outside world. As you walk through the halls, you’ll also notice black and white photos of the monastery in its original state.
The outside of the building, as well as the inner arched hallways and vaulted ceilings, still look like a monastery – that’s part of the charm, of course. The antiques throughout the halls are colorful, though, and they brighten up the interior. It took nearly ten years for Sharma to get the building and gardens the way she wanted them.
Each room has been individually decorated with antiques. The suites include one that is bi-level and has its own private patio overlooking the seascape that’s big enough to hold small gatherings. My room had an amazing view of the Gulf of Salerno and Amalfi in the near distance. I had a large tub, as well as a rain shower with temperature control.
Monastero has a spa as well. The skin care product line that they use has been created from the recipes of 17th century Dominican monks, and the spa adheres to a very natural philosophy. Even the nail polish is organic. There are treatment rooms indoors and a treatment area outside.
The hotel also has a restaurant and a bar. The restaurant is just above the gardens, and you can sit inside, enjoy the view of the sea while dining outside, or take your meals pool-side down below. All three meals of the day are served using local organic ingredients, including greens grown on site. Even the olive oil is local. Of course, the Amalfi Coast is famous for its seafood and pasta. The chef serves dishes like lobster with chickpea puree and has created his own signature pasta shape. There is a sommelier and wine cellar on site, too.
Monastero Santa Rosa is a perfect spot for a honeymoon or a quiet vacation. If you want a more active exploration of the Amalfi Coast, it also serves as a great base that’s peaceful when you’re there but close enough to everything else when you want to go sightseeing. It’s truly one of those unique hotels you’ll never forget.
© November 2012 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.