The Locanda delle Donne Monache is a smart four-star hotel in the historic town centre of Maratea, above the Tyrrhenian sea in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The building is a historic restored convent (Donne Monache are ‘lady monks’, or nuns), and boasts an outdoor swimming pool. I stayed at the hotel for three nights in May 2009 – we had booked a classic double room and a more expensive superior double.
I stayed at this hotel some years ago. Please read on if you would like to discover my experience and opinions, but do also check the latest online reviews from recent guests.
The Locanda delle Donne Monache is in Maratea, a little hillside town high above the sea. Confusingly, the name Maratea is used to cover the whole area, which consists of several settlements. The hotel, though, is located in the main village, in the historic centre. This is high above the railway station so if you are arriving by train you’ll need to check the times of the little local buses, or do as we did, and call the hotel to book a lift (we paid 5 per person). Once you’re at the hotel you can explore Maratea on foot, and either catch the local bus or arrange transport with the hotel if you want to reach the sea or visit nearby villages. Maratea has a tightly-packed and picturesque town centre which is mostly made up of narrow lanes and stairways. The convent which became the Locanda delle Donne Monache is situated in the oldest part of the village, on a rise next to a church. It is about five minutes’ walk to the little piazza at the heart of town. Both the hotel and the town have lots of stairs and no lifts, so it may be a problematic destination for those with limited mobility.
About the hotel
From the moment we were met at the station by the hotel’s driver to when he dropped us off again three days later we felt like welcome guests, and enjoyed a taste of simple, unflashy luxury. At the hotel we were greeted with handshakes and welcoming glasses of fruit juice while our suitcases were delivered to our bedrooms. In our rooms we found welcoming letters and little plates of sweets. There was a turndown service each night, which included free mineral water and sweets left by the bed. The atmosphere was peaceful and refined. Service was friendly and responsive to our queries and requests. A receptionist rang up for bus times, they organised car transfers and provided local information when asked.
We found it hard to get our bearings in the hotel building, which incorporates wings of the old convent and various intriguing little historic corners. Rather eccentric artworks were on display around the building, along with helpful little signs for guests (like us) who might get lost. The most dramatic part of the hotel complex was the swimming pool, on a terrace overlooking Maratea. The church alongside is a reminder of the building’s former inhabitants and makes one wonder what the nuns would make of this decadent scene. Smart sunbeds were lined up alongside the small pool, and there was also a pleasant seating area alongside the bar-restaurant. A tiny gym alongside completed the picture. Although a friendly receptionist showed us around on arrival, it wasn’t until later that we penetrated as far as the hotel’s garden. At a lower level on the hillside, this was a lovely green and shady space with seating and even a picturesque grotto seating area. Indoors, alongside the garden was a large sitting room.
Breakfast and evening meals
The hotel’s restaurant, Ristorante Il Sacello, was smart and in the evening was very atmospheric with flaming torches illuminating the outdoors area by the swimming pool. The brief menu was good, featuring local specialities and seafood. The option that appeared to be vegetarian actually contained anchovies – but luckily I had queried this in advance and was offered a good meat-free alternative. The meal included free welcoming glasses of sparkling wine, tasty bread rolls and little antipasti. Although quite expensive, the food was high-quality, rich and filling and service was charming and attentive.
Breakfast was a typical Italian buffet arrangement, with a waiter to bring hot drinks. There was a generous variety of sliced fresh fruit and imaginatively-flavoured yoghurts as well as the usual selection of cereals, rolls, cakes, cheese and meat slices and croissants.
Double superior room
The double superior room was a decent size, dominated by a king-size bed and perfumed with a reed diffuser. The room’s good-quality wooden furniture included a desk, large chest of drawers, bedside tables, an armchair and a flat-screen television. The bathroom was a good size with a bath-tub and overhead shower. Although the room was attractive, it did have drawbacks, including the outlook. The window looked out onto a wall a short distance away, making the room a little gloomy. And the bathroom window was covered only by a thin net curtain, despite the fact that it was overlooked by a small seating area.
This was a small room with just enough space to walk around the double bed or to sit at the small round table by the window. The high sloping ceiling and white walls made it feel airier, as did the fact I was not sharing the room. For a couple it would be a comfortable place to sleep but would feel crowded at other times. Although the bedroom only had a smallish lozenge-shaped window (characteristic of top floors in local buildings), it had a fantastic view which gave a huge boost to the room’s attractiveness. I could see out over the little lanes at the heart of Maratea, the town’s rooftops and little decorative domes and belltowers. The view, and the smart decor were the best features of the room, though I also appreciated the full-length free-standing mirror. The bathroom was small but fine, with a shower which, though powerful and adjustable, suffered from irregular temperatures – once when the cold water cut out I was nearly scalded.
Both our bedrooms had flat-screen televisions, though CNN was the only English language channel I found. The decor was cool, simple and tasteful; mostly white with a touch of colour from cushions, dark wood furniture and the tiled floors. I particularly liked the museum-piece telephones, which were the old-fashioned dial kind. The rooms were both well-furnished and equipped, with air-conditioning, safes large enough for a laptop computer, mini-bars and good-sized wardrobes with drawers below. Our bathrooms were stocked withgood-quality L’Occitane toiletries (though replenished with a cheaper substitute) and big fluffy white towels.
The rooms were pleasant and well-cared-for. They were both extremely quiet – the thick old walls of the convent make this a cool and peaceful building. They didn’t have the size and the more expensive room didn’t have the outlook one might expect from the prices and from a hotel of this character, but this was unavoidable due to the historic building’s layout. The view from the standard / classic room was lovely. But the hotel’s website describes superior rooms as having “splendid views over Maratea’s landscape” which our one definitely didn’t. The pictures on the website illustrating each room category show better bedrooms than the ones we were offered – larger windows, balconies – so it is worth making a special request for the features you want when making an online booking. We tested the two cheapest room categories – the hotel also offers suites and deluxe rooms.
I loved the Locanda delle Donne Monache, especially its position, views and outdoor space. I felt that the public areas had the style and atmosphere of an exclusive five-star hotel; higher than the hotel’s official rating. It would make a lovely hotel for a honeymoon or smart romantic stay and feels comfortable, friendly and safe for solo travellers. Holidaymakers should note my reservations about the bedrooms though, and bear in mind that the views and sizes vary due to the historic buildings. I would definitely return to the hotel – probably splashing out on a higher-category bedroom – and would recommend it to travellers visiting Maratea. The town is a great base for a classy holiday of pottering and exploring, and the Locanda delle Donne Monache is just about the ideal place to stay.
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On this site
Matera – Basilicata’s ‘cave-town’
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