Good Night and God Bless by Trish Clark is a guide to the best monastery and convent accommodations in Italy, Austria, and the Czech Republic. The book begins with the author’s tale of how she stumbled upon staying in a convent guesthouse in Rome when the hostel she normally stayed at was overbooked. Seeing that it was a fine place for a traveler to stay and it required no religious affiliation or attendance, she began seeking these places out.
Aside from being calm, safe and restful guesthouses, one of their standout features is their affordable cost. Can you imagine your own room near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence or the Spanish Steps in Rome for 40 Euros pp/per night with breakfast included?
One of the best parts of staying in these types of guest quarters is their authenticity, with fantastic architecture, historic locations, and caring hosts who display genuine hospitality. Each one is completely unique; some are housed in old castles while others are near important pilgrimage sites, some are full of hotel-like amenities while others are plain, small monk cells. Some also house priceless works of art that you can only see while staying there.
Clark divides the book by country and also by ‘open houses’ or ‘spiritual retreats’. Open houses are for tourists looking for unique accommodations (and the large majority of the places in the book are open houses) and spiritual retreats are just what they sound like: for those who are not on vacation but rather have a spiritual or healing goal (and most often you are expected to pursue that goal in silence).
Unlike the open houses that have set rates, with many of the places listed as spiritual retreats the daily fees are negotiated with the monks or nuns. Some of them sound like the perfect place for a time in your life when you need to re-gain your peace and serenity.
Clark explores Austria with it stunning natural beauty and points out many ‘open houses’ with spa’s, as many of the Austrian nuns and monks are trained in spa therapies to help support their spiritual homes – in the same way that many Italian monks and nuns produce wine. She then has a short section on the Czech Republic including Prague, Bohemia, and Morovia before heading on to the bulk of the book on Italy and its myriad choices from isolated hillside retreats to downtown options.
The guide is invaluable for planning a trip to monasteries and convents, as many do not advertise and may not have websites with much information. I found this out when doing web searches for monastery accommodations in southern Italy for a friend – it requires much more digging than for hotels. This book should ease the process greatly.
Good Night and God Bless, Trish Clark, Hidden Spring Books, 2009
©Christina Kay Bolton