The Sunday New York Times has an article about staying in Convents in Europe.
New York Times, Monastic Doors Open for Travelers, by Jane Margolies, Oct 19, 2008
This detailed article lists great resources for finding and booking this less expensive type of European accommodation. The writer mentions an article that I wrote with Kathy Wood for SlowTrav – You CAN Afford Europe This Year – where we give our favorite tips for doing less expensive European vacations (with a lot of input from the Slow Travel community).
I have never stayed in a convent (I spent enough time with nuns in my Catholic high school) but I have stayed in many budget hotels in Europe. Budget hotels in the US usually means a less expensive hotel chain, like Motel 6 or Super 8, although you can find very nice locally owned budget hotels or cabins when you get off the interstate. In Europe budget hotels are in the city center and in historic buildings, similar to what you get with a 4-star hotel but with simpler rooms and less opulent lobbies. Not a bad way of touring Europe.
Even better, IMO, are vacation rentals. The best deals for European accommodation are vacation rentals on farms in the countryside – Agriturismo in Italy, Gites in France, Farm Stays in England. Pictured here is an apartment we rented (on the left) on Argiano, a wine estate north of Siena. The apartments were small and simply furnished, but not expensive (under $700/week) and very comfortable. We were in the heart of Chianti, only 15 minutes from Siena. We spent two weeks there and had an excellent vacation exploring the Chianti towns and villages, doing frequent visits to Siena, or taking it easy around the pool. There are hundreds of these types of farms/estates all over Italy.
In the last few weeks I have been heads down looking for local agencies and farms in Tuscany to pick out the best ones to be listed on Slow Europe. We will be launching the website in November. If you have a favorite agency or farms with apartments or cottages anywhere in Europe, please email me and tell me about it.