"Get thee to a nunnery," Hamlet told Ophelia, urging her to chastity; but were he to make the same demand today, the chances are he’d be packing her off to a five-star hotel where she could spend the night with her lover in a king-size bed. While monasteries have always been hospitable, obliged by the Rule of St Benedict to open their doors to whomever the Lord might send their way, in secular times that hospitality has reached another level. In a wave of recent conversions, cells have been knocked together to create large and light bedrooms, modern plumbing has been installed, and refectories have been turned into gourmet restaurants.
Such earthly delights are persuasive, but the most compelling thing about monastic hotels is their serenity. As well as being physically beautiful, ex-monasteries are often strikingly spiritual, as if centuries of prayer and plainchant have seeped into their massive walls. A stay in a cloister seems to incline one to contemplation, reading, sleeping well and turning off the mobile. There are now hundreds of monastic hotels in Europe and Latin America—all across the Catholic world, for Napoleon dissolved monasteries with a lighter touch than Henry VIII. These five seem particularly to have their spirit intact.
Il Convento di Santa Maria di Constantinopoli, Puglia, Italy
Alistair McAlpine gave this 16th-century Franciscan monastery, in the heel of Italy, to his wife, Athena, as a wedding present. Together they have filled it with his fantastic collections of tribal art, textiles, carvings and cacti and opened eight rooms to paying guests. More house party than hotel—B&B includes lunch, tea, wine, grappa, even laundry; the only extra is dinner (€40 a head)—the Convento is steeped in its own past. "It has some kind of reverberation on the rhythm that our day takes," Athena explains. "Every morning we sweep our courtyard, a bell sounds for lunch and supper, everyone eats the same food, together, and in the evening
Marriott expands in Mexico
In a strategic move, the Marriott hotel chain is all set to highly expand its presence in Mexico. Most notably, Mexico has been regarded as one of the most popular sun destination for Americans and Canadians, in addition to an increasing number of Europeans. A report published in the Washington Business Journal notes that the international hotel giant shall necessarily attempt to triple the number of its establishments that it operates in Mexico, during the next five years period. This move forms part of a wider strategy aimed at increasing the presence of Marriott outside of the United States. Notably, outside the US, the firm is already a popular player in the hospitality industry.
At present, Marriott owns and operates about 16 hotels in Mexico. Several of these properties are sited in resort town and highly popular leisure destinations. If the expansion proposal goes on according to the schedule, the introduction of these new ranges of Marriott hotels shall give a significant boost to the Mexican economy, creating not less than 3,000 new jobs in the hospitality industry. On the whole, 29 new hotels are being planned for various cities and towns in Mexico, with the expansion project estimated to cost the owners of these properties about $1 billion spent towards establishment and running.
Ed Fuller, hotel firm's president noted that while Mexico has an attractive tourist destination for quite long for Americans and Canadians, due to the rise of a New Mexican middle class, a commendable development has been brought about in the arenas of domestic and national tourism.