VENICE, 2001...our Monastery Experience
In September of 2001 my friend Douglas and I spent the month in Italy and we lodged in Monasteries. This worked very well for us and we’d been pleasantly surprised at the convenience, the cleanliness and the wonderful hospitality that had been extended to us in Rome, Orvieto, Bavagna, Gubbio, Cortona and Florence.
When I had communicated with the Sisters to make reservations I had been careful to explain that Douglas and I were not married. Some of the Monasteries were very strict about this and I wanted to make sure they knew that we were traveling friends and would be staying in separate rooms.
Our final Monastery stay was in Venice and we were anxious to see how the “Casa Caburlotta” would compare to the others. It was early evening when we arrived there and we couldn’t see a light in any of the windows. This didn’t bode well but we pulled the door rope and were rewarded with a bell tone that was loud enough to wake the dead. It didn’t seem to wake the Sisters, however, and it took 3 bell pulls and 15 minutes before a very old nun dressed completely in black (and with a dark frown to match) opened the door.
I had verification of our reservations and I presented it to the Sister. She took a long time pouring over the document and finally allowed us to enter. She pointed to a chair and instructed Douglas to sit there. Then she took my arm and we proceeded to the second floor where she showed me my room and gave me a small packet of instructions. I realized that I was in for the night and hoped I’d catch up with Douglas at breakfast.
My room was quite sparse but very clean and comfortable. The next morning I did find Douglas in the breakfast room and he was still chuckling. It seems that the Sister situated him about as far away from me as possible. He was in the students quarters on the top floor and accessed his room by a different set of stairs than mine.
It was our good fortune to meet a fellow traveler at breakfast who had stayed many times at the Monastery. He said that he didn’t think there was a Sister there under the age of 80 and that they were very strict but loving. I had my doubts about the “loving” part but we were there for four days regardless.
The next days were filled with all that Venice had to offer. We’d leave early in the morning and return after dinner. The Sisters were thawing a bit toward us...although they still made sure that we separated in the front hall before we retired to our rooms.
On the morning that we left I was amazed when the most austere of the sisters said she had a remembrance for me. She gave me a hug and a small glass pendant from Morano. I will always cherish that gift, but it was the gift of her smile that I will remember forever...it truly was “loving”.