(CNN) — Always dreamed of Yes, really get away from it all? The Italians have long known how to do it.
For centuries this has been a land of hermits and religious retreats – and Italy is still full of remote monasteries and abbeys where religious people lived in seclusion.
You just don’t have to be religious to live their lifestyle. For around 2 million euros ($2.16 million) you can buy a newly designed sanctuary where meditation, peace and stillness reign supreme.
As the seat of the Catholic Church, Italy is dotted with countless monasteries, convents, churches and priestly residences. Many of them date back to the Middle Ages – and they are often for sale. Some can cost less than an apartment in the best real estate areas of Milan or Florence.
“Historical properties with a religious background and structure have enormous potential and appeal to foreigners who want to experience the spiritual side of Italy,” says Riccardo Romolini of Romolini Immobiliare agency, a real estate subsidiary of Christie’s.
“Many monasteries and convents are put up for sale because wealthy families without heirs have gifted these lands to local churches over time, who then later vacated the lands by selling them back to private individuals. Sometimes religious orders put them up for sale for maintenance reasons,” he adds. He recently sold one of these monasteries to an American family as a “private retreat.”
An almost religious experience
This $2.55 million mansion near Florence features a deconsecrated church.
Courtesy of Romolini Immobiliare
Built as the home of the local vicar, it was later inhabited by Dominican friars and remodeled during the Renaissance. The mansion includes a deconsecrated church with frescoes, sculptures and a bell tower. Once the village band, the current owners organize festivals and concerts here.
Owner Maria Silvia Papais sells it for 2.35 million euros ($2.55 million). “It took me 10 days to buy it from 10 different priests who each had a share. I was immediately struck by the beauty of the property, even though it was crumbling and dilapidated when I bought it in the 1980’s. The gardens, the centuries-old trees, the view is mesmerizing. I needed a rural home and lived there for 35 years,” she says.
Papais redesigned the entire property which is in an area once inhabited by ancient tribes including the Etruscans and the scene of many battles. The Romans fought the barbarians here in the 5th century AD, while eight centuries later Tuscan pro-papal troops fought their enemies here.
The 5,000-square-foot, five-bedroom main building where the priest lived features original stone portals, Renaissance fireplaces and decorations, terra-cotta floors, and exposed beams.
The adjacent church has frescoed walls and arches carved by master sculptors in finely engraved pietra serena, a gray local stone quarried nearby.
The villa is surrounded by a 12 hectare park with cypress, maritime pine, oak and laurel trees. Over 700 olive trees provide tasty organic oil.
A private monastery park
For $1.5 million, this former convent in the Ciociaria area between Naples and Rome could be yours.
Courtesy of Romolini Immobiliare
It is part of an idyllic hilltop hamlet which the owners prefer not to name for privacy reasons. However, it is close to the town of Frosinone.
Known for its religious sites, Ciociaria is a maze of hermitages, churches and sanctuaries.
It has always been said to be a crossroads of pilgrims, saints and various religious orders. According to legend, Archangel Michael even appeared here to end a bloody battle.
Surrounded by a private panoramic park, the property is currently used as an events space but is fully habitable with minimal repairs to spruce it up. A thorough renovation in 2022 upgraded the walls and roof.
There are 10 bedrooms, eight bathrooms and a storage basement, all with original terracotta floors, exposed beams and coffered ceilings.
The crowning glory is the inner cloister with a covered loggia with vaulted ceilings, where the monks spent the hours in prayer and meditation and strolled through the garden where they grew medicinal herbs. A newly designed rainwater cistern can be seen underground.
“This monastery is the perfect example of how religious possessions have been passed between religious orders and private individuals several times throughout history,” says Romolini.
The monastery was built by the monks on a piece of land donated to them by local aristocrats and carved into a rocky hillside. They kept the monastery until 1927 when it was abandoned and returned to private ownership.
The entrance leads through an archway with the emblem of the Franciscans. Several panoramic terraced gardens overlook fields where sheep graze.
The monastery’s thick outer stone walls form part of the fortifications surrounding the village and have a watchtower embedded within.
A monastery within the village walls
For $2.9 million you can get a Franciscan monastery and abbey in Umbria.
Lionard luxury real estate
It became an anti-fascist stronghold during World War II when local partisans hid here and planned their resistance. According to its current owners, who wish to remain anonymous, it was also a place of refuge for the American consul in Nice, France. He had been captured by fascists and taken to Italy, but managed to escape and join Italian fighters here.
“Properties of this type with a special historical charm and a certain structural splendor are increasingly becoming the focus of customers who are looking for prestigious properties,” says Jennifer Giraldi, Senior Partner and Sales Director at the Lionard agency responsible for the sale.
“The large outdoor spaces, the dominant positions that guarantee privacy, are increasingly in demand – especially since the pandemic.”
Ideal as a luxury country home, there are two buildings covering 16,000 square meters with 10 standard rooms and six suites, a restaurant with a panoramic veranda, a winter garden, a bar and a church converted for relaxation. Old furniture, wooden decor, handmade ceramics, wrought iron lamps and rich fabrics adorn the interiors.
Surrounded by a park with stone steps and arches, there is even a heated infinity pool with solarium.