A church-cum-convent-cum-hotel-cum-historical sight all wrapped into one.
If you have the money to spare, this is possibly one of the nicest places to stay in Rome. I mean, how many hotels can boast having been designed by Baroque superstar Borromini?
Can't afford to stay here? Sneak in and attend mass with the Sisters (be warned, they rise early) and wander around this beautiful building.
Then enjoy the view of the city and a Prosecco (or three) from the splendid rooftop or in the beautiful convent garden.
On Via Garibaldi, an overlooked corner of Trastevere, steps away (literally) from the Gianicolo. Map.
LET'S GET ONE thing clear upfront: when we said 'sleeping with the nuns' we didn't mean that they would be sharing a bed with you. Or even a room. Vows of chastity, you know...
Convent stays are not hard to find in Rome: there's a good list here. Having stayed in a few of these, they can be interesting experiences, but many of them are rather sober in terms of atmosphere and architecture.
|The nuns hid behind a massive wall and gate to keep the men out.|
The bare brick facade is rather sober and knowing Borromini's tendency to go just a little over the top (and then some), he probably didn't intend it this way. Still, it's beautiful.
|Borromini's curves- minus the marble.|
|The veiled mascaron indicates who used to live here. Men were not allowed. The Farnese lily on the two doorposts is the aristocratic equivalent of a dog's territorial markings...|
|Playing and praying. Every morning. To the left, just visible, is Donna Camilla's tomb.|
|You, too, can have breakfast here. Just bring your credit card.|
Savvy little detail: from the roof you have a great view of the Fontanone dell'Acqua Paola, the monumental fountain that forms the end of aqueduct built by Roman Emperor Trajan, and restored by Pope Paul V (hence the name). The nuns were on excellent terms with the Papal court- they received their own direct supply of Paul's water, for free. It must have helped keeping the utility bills down.
|The Fontanone- free water for the sisters.|
|Borromini's wine cellar.|
Walking is best. It's on Via Garibaldi, in Trastevere, a 5 minute stroll from Sant Maria in Trastevere. Via Garibaldi is within the Zona Traffico Limitato- be careful if you intend to drive here!
Churches of Rome Wiki on Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori
The website of the VOI Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli
Bonus: before it was turned into a hotel, in the 1980s the convent was making some extra money but hosting American exchange students. Mary Jane Cryan, a contributor to Minor Sights who lives not far from Rome, describes her experiences on her own blog.