Six of the best: Devout digs

MONASTERO SANTA ROSA

CONCA DEI MARINI, ITALY

The spa is the star in this former monastery, which teeters on an Amalfi Coast clifftop. The bulk of it is under 17th-century vaulted roofs, while a private, walled treatment pavilion is available for open-air massages. The cute old chapel on site has been put to good use, too - it's frequently used for weddings. There are just 20 rooms - all suites - and they evoke the Amalfi coast's classic grandeur with historic photos of the region tastefully placed on the walls. And the tiered gardens, once tended by the devout, are now a peaceful chill-out zone. Rooms from €433.

See monasterosantarosa.com.

EL CONVENTO,

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

A remnant of the Conquistador era, no hotel captures the heritage vibe of Old San Juan like this converted Carmelite convent. Built in 1646 under the orders of the Spanish king, it sits across the street from the San Juan Cathedral. It was converted to a hotel in 1962, retaining the old-world charm as a counterpoint to San Juan's blingy, modern beach hotels. The wooden beams have been kept while antique chests and delicately carved furniture fit the colonial era feel. The nuns would probably be aghast at the skimpy-costumed guests in the pool, though. Rooms from $US216 ($230).

See elconvento.com.

MANDARIN ORIENTAL

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PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

For many centuries, the serene courtyard garden at the heart of Prague's Mandarin Oriental would be where monks took time out from their chores to contemplate the world. Nowadays, the relaxation is done inside the Renaissance chapel, which has been spectacularly (and expensively) converted into a spa. Guest rooms fill out the rest of the monastery, which hides in the maze of the Mala Strana district. Fourteenth century vaulted ceilings have been maintained among cloud-like beds and sprawling marble bathrooms with their own TV screens. Rooms from €316.

See mandarinoriental.com/prague.

MALMAISON

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

The Malmaison mini-chain has form for startling conversions - elsewhere in Britain it has turned a Royal Mail sorting office and a prison into hotels. The Glasgow effort is equally odd - it was once an Episcopal church. The stern-looking entrance soon gives way to decor calculatingly aimed at sinful dirty weekenders. The mood-lit bar, studded leather chairs and roll-top baths are suited to sacrilegious stays - although opt for the rooms in the original church rather than the extension for the full slap-your-Sunday-school-teacher-in-the-face experience. Rooms from £99 ($180).

See Malmaison.com/locations/Glasgow.

THE KIRCHE AT CHARLES MELTON

BAROSSA VALLEY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

When one of Australia's top winemakers, Charles Melton, bought his property, there was the small matter of what to do with the church by the roadside. The eventual decision was to convert it into luxury accommodation surrounded by vineyards. What was once the vestry now contains a giant, fully equipped kitchen, while the arched windows peer in over leather couches and a wood-burning fireplace. A second bedroom hides upstairs beneath the soaring roof and there's underfloor heating in the bathroom. Rental of the church starts from $495.

See thekirche.com.au.

HOTEL ELZENVELD

ANTWERP, BELGIUM

A hodge-podge combination of a red-brick church, a vicarage and a former convent, the Elzenveld was slowly put together between the 13th and 17th centuries. It is now largely used for conference groups rather than keeping nuns off the street but it still manages to keep the feel of a sabbatical retreat. The hidden garden surrounded by cloisters now has a series of weird statues to go alongside the basic benches, the cloakroom in the entrance hall has stone in memorium slabs behind the coat rails and the floorboards are endearingly creaky. Rooms from €112 ($163).

See Elzenveld.be.

The writer was a guest of Malmaison and the South Australian Tourism Commission.

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