Monastero Santa Rosa, Amalfi Coast, Italy
With unparalleled picturesque views, dramatic winding coastal roads and beautiful inimitable beaches, it’s no surprise that the Amalfi Coast was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Attracting thousands of travellers each year, this magical Italian Coastline is dreamlike.
Comprising of 13 municipalities; Amalfi, Positano and Ravello are the most renowned. However, often overlooked and extremely underrated, is the small, yet charming municipal, Conca dei Marini – an enchanting fishing village, dotted with pastel coloured cliffside cottages. Set on a hill between sister towns Amalfi and Furore, Conca dei Marini is home to the Sfogliatella and Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa. The former, a delicious shell-shaped filled Italian pastry, first created in the monastery of Santa Rosa; the latter, the one-time 17th century monastery of this wonderful pastry creation, and now, present-day luxury boutique hotel.
Perched majestically upon the edge of a cliff, overlooking the glistening sapphire waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the hotel not only boasts breathtaking views all around, but is also a captivating sight in itself. It’s no wonder then, that on her very first visit to the mesmerising Italian coastline, hotel owner Bianca Sharma made the unanticipated decision to purchase the property, having become enthralled by its magnificent structure.
To truly appreciate her passion, commitment and unwavering perseverance, you’d have to sit down with her and listen attentively, as she details the countless obstacles she had to overcome, to achieve the sanctuary that is, Monastero Santa Rosa. With no prior hotelier experience, former Montessori school teacher, Bianca has remarkably developed an establishment that redefines luxury accommodation, dining and relaxation, by combining elegance with simplicity and attention to detail.
Having opened in 2012, following a decade of extensive renovation, the hotel possesses an atmosphere like no other. Desiring to preserve the essence of the once monastery, Sharma has managed to retain a spiritual ambience, through various accents and distinctive features. From the Santa Maria Novella potpourri, to the scented candles, to the artwork of nuns, and the most intriguing – a freestanding confessional.
Upon arrival to the hotel, a delightful, well-dressed gentleman, chimed the monastery bell, signalling our arrival, and at the same time, welcoming us to the acclaimed residence. Within moments, an equally pleasant member of staff handed us rose water scented hand towels to freshen up, before guiding us upstairs to the Sunset Terrace.
Sipping on my complimentary fresh beverage of lemongrass, infused with chamomile and mint, I sauntered back and forth the terrace, in absolute awe of the abundant surreal views. To the left, a spellbinding backdrop of a myriad of towering mountains, extending to nearby towns Amalfi and Positano. To the right, a bird’s-eye view of the hotel’s impeccable tiered garden, and straight ahead, a glimmering sea view, stretching miles into the distance. Whether you’d like to admire the gorgeous sunset, the stunning sunrise or simply catch some rays under the glorious Mediterranean sun, the Sunset Terrace is the perfect place to relax and unwind.
In addition to the exceptional Sunset Terrace, the hotel is filled with numerous tranquil spaces. My favourite: the aesthetically pleasing tiered garden. Overflowing with various spots to repose, sheltered by scattered lemon trees, that produce the sweetest fruit, one could easily lose track of time whilst lounging by the pool, caught up in a gripping novel. The lowest level of the well-maintained gardens is home to indisputably the most vertiginous, yet spectacular pool in the Amalfi Coast. With a vanished-edge, giving the illusion that the pool connects to the sea, it is architectural perfection. For those wishing to stay fit whilst on their Mediterranean escape, the tiered gardens also has an outdoor gym. There’s nothing quite like riding a stationary bike whilst admiring the crystal clear, azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
To add to my list of firsts, absolutely nothing could compare to brushing my teeth each morning, whilst gazing out at the gleaming sea, watching the early risers cruise the water in their private boats. It was both alluring and serene. I stayed in one of the hotel’s exquisite Sea View Deluxe Terrace Rooms. With a private terrace overlooking the impressive garden, also providing for an ideal spot to have a nightcap, and a bathtub looking out to additional incredible, coastal views, I was indeed spoilt for choice.
Boasting 20 sumptuous rooms and suites, (each named after a herb that the nuns would have grown in the gardens, to produce their medicines) each apartment offers striking views. Subtle tones of navy blue and olive green, add to the predominately crisp white décor. Keeping with the neutral theme, personally selected, classic Italian antiques in dark wood, along with light Jerusalem stone, furnish every room.
Not wanting to tear myself away from my deluxe room, yet famished from travelling, I strolled down to Ristorante Il Refettorio, the hotel’s onsite restaurant. With the option of dining alfresco on the sea view terrace, or sheltered in an intimate setting beneath vaulted ceilings, considering the sublime weather, evidently, we chose the terrace.
Dipping a selection of freshly baked breads in 100% Italian special olive oil, produced specifically for the hotel’s kitchen, we dined in decadent style – indulging in carbs and adoring the sheer beauty of the Gulf of Salerno.
All of the food served in Ristorante Il Refettorio is cooked with the freshest ingredients, deriving from the encompassing Campania region. Eminent, Executive Chef, Christoph Bob, originally from Germany fell in love thrice on the Amalfi Coast – once with his wife, and also with the region and its food. Having previously worked in an array of illustrious restaurants across Europe, Christoph brings his outstanding gastronomic skills and culinary passion to Santa Rosa. He says, “Nowhere on earth does the sun and the soil give us such richness of flavours as do the fresh produce, herbs, and seafood found right here on our coast.”
Whilst taking us on a tour of the property’s very own herb garden, Christoph revealed a range of freshly grown vegetables, all of which are used daily in Santa Rosa’s kitchen. Tomatoes, chamomile, pomegranates, artichokes, fennel, cherries, figs, olives and succulent tasting strawberries were just a few of the produce in the vegetable garden. For guests desiring to learn more about Italian fresh produce and straightforward recipes that can easily be rustled up at home, lunch with the charismatic Christoph is included in the ‘Health & Hike’ package.
Commencing with a 2-3-hour guided hike through the extraordinary, mountainous region, guests are given the opportunity to experience the hidden treasures of Italy’s, Amalfi Coast. Besides the delicious picnic-style packed lunch, prepared by the kitchen staff, which we enjoyed after enduring the steepest trail, my favourite part of the hike was witnessing the beauty of the heart of the nature reserve, ‘Valle delle Ferriere.’ Bursting with peaceful springs, wondrous waterfalls and emerald green vegetation, the conservation was nothing short of awe-inspiring, with its phenomenal panoramic views. Although far from an avid hiker, I found the path to be manageable. Though at times, precipitous, our hospitable and endearing guide, Marco was there to offer me a helping hand across the rocky slopes.
Following the hike, ‘Health & Hike’ package guests can enjoy a luxuriating spa treatment at the hotel’s world-class spa, where a range of Santa Maria Novella products are used. To begin my ‘Arnica Body Wrap,’ the masseuse began with a soothing hot foot soak in volcanic mineral salts with menthol. It was exactly the unwinding I needed after an invigorating, yet gruelling half-day of hiking. Rosemary oil was then used as an inhalant for aromatherapy purposes, before the masseuse began the alleviating Arnica Crème massage. For further relaxation, guests can explore the spa’s many facilities, including an aromatic steam room, a natural rock sauna, a tepidarium lounge and a vaulted hydro pool, amongst other amenities.
Conca dei Marini is a wonderfully, charming village, however given that its sister municipals are just a short journey away, one would be foolish to visit the South of Italy without exploring more than one of the Coast’s enchanting villages. Monastero Santa Rosa offers a shuttle bus service into neighbouring town Amalfi, which is only 10 minutes away. Ravello is approximately 15 minutes away and Positano, 25. Complete with plenty of specialty shops, adorable cafes and the option to join a variety of boat tours, Amalfi is the optimum place to begin a lovely day trip.
With its amiable and accommodating members of staff, attentiveness and unprecedented service, the team at Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa have contrived a way to make guests feel as though they are at home, enjoying themselves with family, and at the same time, at a 5-star luxurious Mediterranean resort. From the Front Office Manager, Pompeo Amendola, who is constantly smiling and always eager to help, to the thoughtful idea of being able to send a free postcard to a loved one, and the harmonious music playing in the room, following turndown, no thought to ensure you have a first-rate experience has been spared.
Monastero Santa Rosa
Via Roma, 2, 84010 Conca dei Marini SA, Italy