Australian archdiocese offers room at the inn in Rome

By Catholic New World
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pilgrims looking for a place to stay in Rome — especially those from Englishspeaking countries — have a new option, one slightly more personal than commercial hotels and more comfortable than hostels or convent housing.

The Archdiocese of Sydney has opened Domus Australia in a building that once housed Marist priests who were studying in Rome. Finding the property, designing the total renovation, getting approvals and doing the construction was a six-year-process that cost about as much as opening a new parish and school in Australia, said Danny Casey, the Sydney archdiocese’s business manager, during a recent visit to Chicago.

Its primary goal is to serve the 60,000 Australians who visit Rome each year, offering advice and information through its visitor center — which also is a pickup point for tickets for papal audiences and liturgies. An Australian chaplain celebrates Mass in English every day in the building’s chapel.

But the 33 guest rooms, all with king-size beds, air conditioning and their own bathroom facilities, are open to anyone who wants to stay, Casey said, and all staff members are fluent in English. Individuals, families and pilgrimage groups are all encouraged to visit. The building is about a 10-minute walk from Rome’s main train station and close to public transit.

The original idea for Domus Australia was raised in the Australian bishops’ conference about 30 years ago, Casey said, when Cardinal George Pell of Sydney was a young bishop. He supported the idea then and raised it again.

While Domus Australia was created for pilgrims, it is able to accommodate business travelers and vacationers as well, Casey said. A conference center in the crypt under the chapel has all the modern technology business people might need, and the on-site restaurant can cater for special occasions. An outdoor courtyard includes an area where guests can look down and view an excavation of a Roman pathway that archeologists believe was built in the first century B.C.

The building itself — really four interconnected buildings — date from the late 1800s, which, Casey notes, “is pretty modern by Roman standards” and they were structurally in good shape despite falling into some disrepair before the Archdiocese of Sydney bought them.

Room rates are generally a bit lower than travelers would find in comparable hotels, starting at about 115 euros for the next several months, Casey said.