Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Living within ancient walls : Borromini Monastery in Trastevere

Designed by Baroque architect Borromini, the Donna Camilla Savelli is a former monastery in Rome's popular Trastevere area. It offers a garden, elegant and sober rooms, and free Wi-Fi in the lobby.

This is the website description of  a 4 star hotel located at the foot of  the Janiculum hill in Rome’s Trastevere area . 

For many lucky American students studying in Rome during the 1980s   it was  home  during their semester  study  abroad program.  
Borromini designed the facade of the monastery 
The female students were “cloistered” on the first floor while the men were relegated to the second floor corridor. There were communal bathrooms back then and the  ancient heating system was seldom  lukewarm. To survive the chill, the students bundled up with thick sweaters or  sat in the sunshine of the courtyard garden where roses bloomed  even in December.

The  atmosphere at the convent was often similar to  a Fellini film set : Gina, the  grumpy portinaia,  elderly nuns gliding  silently along white and black marble hallways,  meals served in the frescoed  refectory, cavernous kitchens hung with bright copper pots  and  sitting rooms furnished  with antiques including  Pope Pius IX’s  armchair.
copper pots in the  convent kitchen 

marble fountain
near the refectory 

The sisters of the religious order were grateful for the money which arrived from America and used it to  repair  parts of the roof. 

the convent today - an expensive  4 star hotel
Here are some  of the original  letters with the price list  for bed and breakfast....a far cry from what today's clients pay to stay in the luxurious modern rooms of the former monastery. 

How times have changed!  Notice that IVA tax  was only 9 or 10%. 

What could you buy for the equivalent of   26 or 28,000 lire today? (approximately  14-16 euro) 


The convent  was founded  by Donna Camilla  Savelli (related to the Ruspoli-Marescotti family)  and  has had an interesting history culminating in its new use as a luxury hotel. 

During World War II many  Roman Jewish families found refuge here and the sisters distributed  bread  and food to the local population from the monastery kitchens.   

Please  leave a comment about your living experiences in Rome  as a student . 
What  were your  accomodations like ? 

Check out articles on Study Abroad today in Viterbo area  and  books  about the area  on my website ..  


  1. Mary Jane- I read today's blog about being a student in Rome fifty years ago, and sent it on to Joe, whose NAC class is now 50 years post ordination. I thought some of his classmates might like to see it, and perhaps to post about their experiences 50 years ago. Great reading! To access the blog, go to


  2. Hmm. I bought a Fiat 500 for the equivalent of $60 when I was a student in Paris and used it to drive my friends out to the countryside to go hiking. Of course at times chunks used to fall off it as we drove. The end came when I went to drive it and it wouldn't start--no sound--zip.
    When I looked under the hood, there was no engine! Someone had stolen it overnight.
    Those were the days my friends...

    Living in Rome was an even more amazing bargain 50 years ago- For instance, Joe bought a Fiat 500 for $500. drove it all through Europe one summer, and sold it to one of the Vatican gardeners for $450. at the end of the summer.

    Another tale from the olden days- my wedding gown cost $40. in 1971; a friend was telling me recently that her wedding gown cost $18. (at Filene's Basement) in the late 1960's. If you watch bridal shows on cable TV, it seems that the price these days is a minimum of $2 or $3 thousand.... My whole wedding was under a thousand! MJB

    I think Joe will remember how cheap it was to live there ... the post and prices are about the 80s when I organized the students in the marvelous convent now a 4 star hotel.
    I'm thinking about the past these days since this week I celebrate my Sept. 8th arrival back in 1965.
    Glad you are enjoying the blog...whenever you- or Joe- want to do a guest article, let me know. I just wrote one for a new website

    Mary Jane

  3. Yesterday at 4:34pm · Like · Remove Preview

    Mary Mumbach wrote: You found us glorious accommodations, Mary Jane A joy, to be reminded how fortunate we used to be, staying in a most perfect place in Rome.

  4. Loved to read this, thank you!

  5. Incredible!! How business controls everything...