Hotel Monastero Santa Rosa in Salerno, Amalfi Coast, Italy
One of the newest and most luxurious of the recent religious building conversions is the Monastero Santa Rosa on Italy's Amalfi Coast, which opened in May, 10 minutes from the town of Amalfi. The complex is a 17th-century monastery surrounded by garden paths leading to an even older 12th-century chapel. Now a 20-room hotel and spa, the structure is dramatically set into the vine-covered contours of a coastal cliff and topped with a disappearing-edge swimming pool. Every room has a view to the sea.
The highlight of the hotel is its spa, with several private sanctuaries and even an outdoor treatment garden, offering views of the Gulf of Salerno and the scent of lemons, mint, jasmine and the sea as you enjoy your massage.
"The spa designer believed that the building should be the guide as to the best design," hotel representative Colleen Joyce wrote in an email. "She kept intact the original 17th century vaulted ceilings and many of its rustic walls in order to maintain the intriguing character of the original rooms." The entire hotel can also be rented out for destination weddings.
Telephone: +39 0898321199
El Convento in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Among the earliest conversions from a religious building to a hotel is Puerto Rico's El Convento, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 1962 renovation and rebirth. The first renovation was a project of Frederic Woolworth, heir to the Woolworth family fortune. Upgrades have continued ever since, making the ancient structure comfortable and full of modern conveniences. The 58-room hotel is the oldest property in the Historic Hotels of America collection, its history dating to 1651 as the Monastery of Our Lady of Carmen of San Jose.
Smack in the center of historic Old San Juan, it has elements the nuns could only dream of: swimming pools, a fitness and spa center, three restaurants and a veranda terrace for evening cocktails. "El Convento is designated by the government of Puerto Rico to be the official guest house for visiting heads of state and dignitaries and unofficially for celebrities including Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony and Gloria Vanderbilt, for whom the Vanderbilt Suite is named," hotel representative Amanda Schinder wrote in an e-mail.
Hotel Monasterio in Cuzco, Peru
Among the oldest of the religious buildings in the Americas adapted into a hotel is the Hotel Monasterio, a Spanish former monastery dating from 1592. It sits in the heart of Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire, off the city's central square.
Now an Orient Express hotel, the 126 rooms are awash in buttery, neutral tones, the walls adorned with religious colonial art. Many of the rooms overlook Cuzco's central square, just steps from other colonial and Inca monuments. At 11,000 feet above sea level, unique to the hotel are oxygen-enriched rooms to help visitors adjust to the thin air. Hotel staff can arrange Orient Express train transport to the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, where the company's sister property sits at the entrance to the historic ruins.
Hotel Direct: +51 84 60 4000
Sofitel Santa Clara in Cartagena, Colombia
This Sofitel began its life as a monastery in 1621 in the Spanish colonial city of Cartagena de Indias, one of the best-preserved colonial cities on the South American continent. The city was declared a UNESCO monument in 1984. The monastery was part of the setting for Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical realism novel "Of Love and Other Demons."
Today, a new fantasy is born with 119 rooms, 17 of them suites, in the old monastery and the new extension. The décor mixes ancient walls with modern touches and conveniences. The interior courtyard houses an outdoor pool, and the spa is equipped with a hammam, Jacuzzi and solarium. During the renovation of the hotel, many colonial artifacts were uncovered, and they are now on view throughout the hotel. Colonial Cartagena is itself a living museum, all within walking distance of the hotel.
Telephone: (+57)5/6504700 - (+57)5/6648040