The "diffuse hotel" phenomenon in Italy
Santo Stefano in Sessanio in the Abruzzi mountains is home to the albergo diffuso Sextantio.The albergo diffuso phenomenon is a new one, a way to rescue crumbling medieval villages and historic but half-abandoned neighborhoods of ancient cities while simultaneously breathing new life into the local economy, transforming many of the empty houses into a “diffuse hotel” in which the guest rooms are intermingled with the houses of village residents.
Simply put, a "diffuse hotel" is one where there is a central reception desk, but not a single building housing the hotel. Instead, the hotel's "rooms" are scattered around a neighborhood or entire town.
The person living next door to you might be another tourist, but could just as easily be a local Carabinieri officer, or the guy who runs the shop downstairs, the barrista from the cafe the corner, or a little old lady who sits in her doorway, shelling peas or knitting, blessing you with a wide smile each time you pass.
In other words, it's a way of sampling the Italian way of life for a night or two.
Where can I find an albergo diffuso in Italy?
A recent article in La Repubblica, one of Italy’s leading newspapers, counted roughly 200 alberghi diffusi throughout Italy, though only 52 hew to the ideals mixing preservation and hospitality, and of those only 35 are officially accredited (thanks in part to the fact that accreditation is a regional matter, and many regions have yet to acknowledge albergo diffuso as a category).
There is more about the phenomenon at The National Association of Diffuse Hotels (www.alberghidiffusi.it); the site is in Italian but does link to 18 excellent alberghi diffusi from Sicily to the Alps.
Here are a few of my favorites—the prices are daily rates for a double room, except as noted:
- Sextantio, Abruzzi
Perhaps the postcard example of an albergo diffuso, a medieval mountain town in the Gran Sasso National Park of the Abruzzi, two hours east of Rome.
tel. +39-0862-899-112 or tel. +39-085-497-2324, www.sextantio.it, from €220 (from €220 online). » more
- TrullIdea, Puglia
Fifteen genuine trulli (the prehistoric conical houses for which this area is famous) in the UNESCO-protected historic center of Alberobello, the region’s main town.
tel. +39-080-432-3860, www.trullidea.com, from €90 (from €63 online).
- Borgo dei Corsi, Tuscany
Classy Tuscan apartments available for weekly rentals in Raggiolo, an ancient feudal stone village in the heavily forested Casentino mountains just northeast of Florence.
tel. +39-0575-514-428, www.borgodeicorsi.it, from €400 per week.
- Corte Fiorita, Sardegna
Thirty rooms, some overlooking the Temo River, installed in several pastel houses of the fortified Sardinian town of Bosa.
tel. +39-0785-377-058, www.albergo-diffuso.it, from $84 (€60).
- Forgaria Monte Prat, Friuli
Forty apartments, houses, and chalets distributed among several villages on the high Alpine plain of Monte Prat in the eastern Friulian Dolomite Mountains near the border with Austria.
tel. +39-0427-809-610, www.monteprat.it, from €63 apt, €83 house.
- La Casella, Umbria
A rural take on the albergo diffuso, with 32 lodgings in several 19th-century houses dispersed over a 1,112-acre valley along the Tuscany-Umbria border near Orvieto. There’s also a spa and an equestrian resort.
tel. +39-0763-86-684, www.lacasella.it, from €140.
- Sotto le Cummerse, Puglia
Ten apartments with kitchenettes, A/C, and TV-DVDs, in the historic center of Locorotondo, a whitewashed Apulian town famous for its wine and views over the storybook Valle d’Itria.
tel. +39-080-431-3298, www.sottolecummerse.it, from €82 (from €70 online).
- Val di Kam, Sicily
Apartments and villas in the Agrigento hinterlands where ancient Sician kings once ruled (and, according to legend, King Minos was murdered), including a dozen rooms in Sant’Angelo Muxaro, a primeval Sicilian village atop a sheer chalk hill that once served as an ancient necropolis. Hint: request the pranzo diffuso, a moveable breakfast feast from 9:30 to noon where you visit the shepherd for fresh cheeses, the baker for bread and oil, and end in a courtyard with a spread of pastries and other delectables.
tel. +39-0922-919-670 or tel. +39-339-530-5989, www.valdikam.it, from €56.
- Sextantio (profile of an albergo diffuso in the Abruzzi Mountains)
- Renting an apartment
- Rental rooms
- Other lodging alternatives
This material was last updated November 2010. All information was accurate at the time.
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