I bowed my head out of habit as I ducked through the wooden door frame of the spa lobby and into that formerly monastic space, scented in a heavenly rosemary and lemon essence. Vaulted arches dating to the 17th century loomed ominously overhead as I walked past ancient stone walls reflecting warm golden rays of light that danced with the echoes of the azure waters rippling gently below.
Although the space I had entered was now a luxury spa catering to the discerning guests of the Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel & Spa on Italy's Amalfi Coast, I was keenly aware that I had entered a once-sacred space. Not only had all 20 guestrooms, the kitchen, dining areas and public spaces of this luxury boutique hotel been delicately restored from a 17th-century convent, but even the spa occupied a series of storied chambers and well-worn pathways once used by the Dominican order of nuns.
The spa sits just one terrace up from the hotel's stunning infinity pool, which was carved into the cliffs of Monte San Pancrazio to look out over the Gulf of Salerno, inside a space the Sisters of Santa Rosa once used for making their signature sweet wines in an atmosphere of contemplation and silence.
Even today, the ambience of the 750-foot thermal suite remains the same, with its air of serenity washing over the treatment areas and hydrotherapy zones. The spa is open to hotel guests for complimentary use of the stone sauna, ice fountain, steam room, programmable emotion shower, hydrotherapy pool and vaulted tepidarium, with a full range of treatments available for booking in the treatment rooms or on the hotel's outdoor terraces.
At the guidance of the spa manager, I began my journey through the spa with a foot soak inside the warmed and salted waters of the stone wells in the tepidarium while I filled out my treatment questionnaire. My therapist collected the form and sent me off to start a circuit through the dry sauna, followed by a visit to the ice fountain and the hydrotherapy pool. Moments of relaxation interlaced with moments of reflection, as soft bubbles burst against my floating body while I gazed at the beautiful arches of the ancient ceiling above.
In keeping with its traditions, the Spa at the Monastero Santa Rosa uses Santa Maria Novella products in all their treatments. The products were first made by the same order of monks and friars as the Santa Rosa convent's first inhabitants, and even today the same recipes and artisanal traditions are used to produce this exclusive line.
I left the spa with a placid smile on my face and the noticeable glow of a person who has just been in the presence of absolute beauty and grace.
Rates begin at about $700 in high season (late May to early October), $470 in low season. Visit www.monasterosantarosa .com