Living small historic villages like a local without giving up the comforts of a modern hotel

Is it possible to fully appreciate and experience the life of Italian historic villages and town centers when lodging at a fair distance? Building new modern hotels within these contexts would mean ruining them in an unthinkable way. Thankfully the never-ending resourcefulness of the Italians came, once more, to the rescue. Thanks to an Albergo Diffuso (AD), which translates into ‘scattered hotel’, guests can have the experience of living in the historical center of a city or a town while being able to count on all the hotel services. This concept of hospitality offers the opportunity to stay in renovated existing houses and rooms that are no more than 200 meters from the ‘heart’ of the AD. This is the building in which there are the reception and common areas. Sometimes here, there is also the dining room but in other cases the AD partners with local restaurants.

A “scattered hotel” animates the local economy by stimulating other initiatives and involving local producers considered as a key component of the offer

The first AD, or “scattered hotel”, was developed in Carnia, in 1982, with the objective of recovering for tourism the houses of the villages damaged by an earthquake of the 1970s. The idea was conceived by Giancarlo Dall’Ara, professor of tourism marketing, who said: “I think of an albergo diffuso as a novel that tells the story of a culture. Guests are brought into the story temporarily so they can better understand the way of life.” Today, there are about 150 ADs all over the Belpaese. And many of them turned ghost towns that suffered from depopulation as residents move to bigger cities into luxurious accommodations, with guests able to stay in their own individual buildings. Indeed, the AD is also a model of territorial development that does not have an environmental impact because it doesn’t require any new building. Moreover, an AD animates the local economy by stimulating other initiatives and involving local producers considered as a key component of the offer. Thus, thanks to the authenticity of the proposal, the proximity of the structures that compose it, and the presence of a community of residents, an AD canoffer more than a mere stay, it offers a lifestyle experience.

Great examples of AD can be found in many regions. One of them is Sextantio in the medieval fortress town of Santo Stefano di Seassanio, in Abruzzo. Here, guests can take picnics on top of the mountain with local bread, cheeses, wines, fruits, and cured meats. The village itself seems frozen in time, with a cafe in a square and workshops of local artisans. Sextantio is also in Matera, the 2019 European Capital of Culture carved into solid rock. While, in Emilia Romagna, in the village of Portico di Romagna, there is Al Vecchio Convento, where it’s possible to attend cooking lessons or go truffle hunting with the locals.

Photo Credits: M. Anselmi

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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