Escape Artists

Boutique Hotel in Spoleto

Occasionally in your quest to become a seasoned world traveler, the gift of something wonderful and rare will be placed at your feet.  You might not realize it at the moment, perhaps due to jet lag, hunger, or overall orneriness.  You could also be jumping with joy at the thrill of the knowledge of your own unique travel experience.  Either way it happens, it will be carved into your memory and it always seems to be over too quickly.  I found one of these awe-inspiring places in Spoleto, a special boutique hotel, also know as the Eremo Delle Grazie.

Welcome to the Hermitage Welcome to the Hermitage

Nestled in the Sacred Woods

I almost feel bad mentioning this solitary and mystical place for fear that a swarm of business would surely damage the magic of it, but its story is a profound one, and one that should be shared.  Nestled in the Sacred Woods, in the mountains of Monteluco, overlooking the city of Spoleto, is a hermitage.  The history dates back to 400 AD, when St. Isaac fled Syria to resume the life of a hermit, along with a handful of his followers.  Dispersed among the Sacred Woods, small caves and houses carved into the stone walls held the dozen or so hermits, praying and living in solitude.  They would join in the evenings for dinner, only to return to total isolation for the duration of their lives.

Looking out over the town of Spoleto Looking out over the town of Spoleto

A truly religious experience

This little compound on top of the mountains quickly gained a reputation as a place for spiritual enlightenment and meditation as the centuries passed.  Those who yearned for a life of prayer and closeness to God found brothers among them, large enough to establish Il Congregazione dei Padri Eremiti di Monteluco (the Congregation of Hermit Friars of Monteluco) in 1547. In its time, the Hermitage has housed two Popes (Pius XII and Paul VI), numerous Bishops, and about a dozen Cardinals. After a couple of facelift, the Eremo still retains the Cardinal’s Room, a spacious and beautifully painted chamber with a window overlooking the altar of the Chapel within the main house.

The altar of their hand painted chapel The altar of their hand painted chapel

The present day hotel’s abundant amenities

The main house as it currently stands has expanded greatly to make way for the treasures as well as guests it has seen over the years.  It now includes a large and plush library, complete with little ships inside glass bottles and amazingly old manuscripts, books, and artifacts from guests of the past.   The house was built around the oldest and original cave, which is now a surprisingly ample and archaic wine cellar, with some bottles that are over a hundred years old.  They have even installed bathrooms in each of the ten guest rooms, complete with porcelain bathtubs, a rarity in Italian hotels.  I guess one main bathroom was proving to test some patrons’ patience after a few centuries.  Even the keys are huge monstrous things out of a Jane Austen novel, with wood blocks attached to them with the name of the monk who’s cell you are staying in.  No Suite #100 here, only the room of Fra Guadentio.

Even the insects are praying! Even the insects are praying!

Story of the Hotel, to be continued…

The boutique and whimsical hotel Eremo Delle Grazie has seen its share of residents, owners, and visitors, striving to preserve the quietude of this gorgeous and orphic location.  The Sacred Woods surrounding the residence are mysterious and offer some of the best hikes and views you will see in Spoleto, Umbria, perhaps in all of Italy.  The people you meet are some of the nicest and most fascinating characters you will see on your trip.  And I haven’t even gotten to the good part, yet (Read more)

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