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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Borromini Monastery in Trastevere - hidden treasure or just for the wealthy?

We were intrigued to read recently - on Mary Jane Cryan's 50 Years In Italy blog - about Cryan's students' experiences living in what most Romans refer to as the Borromini monastery in Trastevere.  We've written about her books on Etruria, and it's fun to read about her impressions of Rome.

We used to slip into the monastery to show the distinctive building to visitors.  But then it was taken over by a luxury hotel operator, and now is simply that - a luxury hotel.  You can peek your head inside, but you can't go as far in, or see as much, as in the "good old days."  We knew guests could stay in the monastery before it became a hotel, but we hadn't realized it was used for students staying for longer terms. Cryan's - and her students' - experiences, photos, and documents show us what used to be there - a real treat.

Cryan begins with the ad for what the monastery is now - the deluxe hotel, and the rest of this post is from her blog posting which we print here with her permission:

Designed by Baroque architect Borromini, the Donna Camilla Savelli is a former monastery in Rome's popular Trastevere area. It offers a garden, elegant and sober rooms, and free Wi-Fi in the lobby.

This is the website description of  a 4 star hotel located at the foot of  the Janiculum hill in Rome’s Trastevere area . 

For many lucky American students studying in Rome during the 1980s   it was  home  during their semester  study  abroad program.  
Borromini designed the facade of the monastery 
The female students were “cloistered” on the first floor while the men were relegated to the second floor corridor. There were communal bathrooms back then and the  ancient heating system was seldom  lukewarm. To survive the chill, the students bundled up with thick sweaters or  sat in the sunshine of the courtyard garden where roses bloomed  even in December.

The  atmosphere at the convent was often similar to  a Fellini film set : Gina, the  grumpy portinaia,  elderly nuns gliding  silently along white and black marble hallways,  meals served in the frescoed  refectory, cavernous kitchens hung with bright copper pots  and  sitting rooms furnished  with antiques including  Pope Pius IX’s  armchair.
copper pots in the  convent kitchen 

marble fountain
near the refectory 

The sisters of the religious order were grateful for the money which arrived from America and used it to  repair  parts of the roof. 

the convent today - an expensive  4 star hotel
Here are some  of the original  letters with the price list  for bed and breakfast....a far cry from what today's clients pay to stay in the luxurious modern rooms of the former monastery. 

How times have changed!  Notice that IVA tax  was only 9 or 10%. 
What could you buy for the equivalent of   26 or 28,000 lire today? (approximately  14-16 euro) 

The convent  was founded  by Donna Camilla  Savelli (related to the Ruspoli-Marescottifamily)  and  has had an interesting history culminating in its new use as a luxury hotel

During World War II many  Roman Jewish families found refuge here and the sisters distributed  bread  and food to the local population from the monastery kitchens.   


RomeFromHome said...

This is what I love about Rome - virtually every building has a story to tell!
Would this be the hotel that was used by Woody Allen to shoot scenes for the movie 'To Rome with Love'?

MinorSights said...

Mary Jane's post brought me here... she told me about here experiences 'in the olden days' after she read the recent article on our website about the Borromini Convent: