Italy Restores Abandoned Villages to Create New Destinations for Touristic
Italy has been one of the most popular European destinations for decades. Art, culture, vibrant nightlife, and unique experience were always associated with Italy. However, towns like Rome, Venice, and Florence are practically invaded by tourists during the summer season. As a result, Italy had to get creative and find alternative destinations in order to spread out the tourist density. Ancient hill villages are starting to become more popular, and those who want a non-cliche travel experience in Italy are drawn to these locations.
Abandoned buildings in these villages were turned into hotels that offer lodging options for tourists who prefer a more secluded setting. These buildings are called Albergo Diffuso which roughly translates to scattered hotels, and they are offering the same services as any hotel in an urban area. However, think of it as a horizontal hotel where instead of stairs you walk different outdoor pathways to reach your room.
How it all started
Although there is a great deal of these hotels nowadays back in the 1980s’ they were merely a concept. Albergo Diffuso, a brainchild of Giancarlo Dall’Ara, a marketing consultant who was trying to breathe life back into Friuli-Venezia Giulia villages. Back in 1976, these villages were ravaged by an earthquake, so people had to move and abandon their houses. During one of his visits, Giancarlo Dall’Ara saw beautiful houses that were completely empty and came up with a new idea that also benefits tourism.
His inspiration came from two factors. The first one was that villages don’t need a hotel, it is a building that would definitely be out of place in such an environment. The second source of inspiration was Japan, where he was introduced to a concept of the ryokan. Ryokan is basically a traditional inn in Japan, so he felt that Italy should have something similar in its hospitality industry that is closely connected to the roots of its culture.
Daniele Kihlgren Investment
Daniele Kihlgren is an entrepreneur who stumbled upon the village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, during one of his motorcycle rides, back in the 2000s. The village was a good example of an Italian medieval settlement that ended up becoming a ghost town due to urbanization. As the village was well preserved Daniele began working on it, in order to create an authentic experience for the visitors.
He named it Albergo Diffuso Sextantio, and it is a lodging option with reception area, 28 rooms, meeting room, restaurant, and wine bar. He did not construct any new structures, only the existing buildings were used, bars, wooden and stone cottages, stables and wine cellars. These were all restored and repurposed as accommodation facilities that can be also booked for special events, like family gatherings, weddings, business trips or meetings, etc. This was a costly venture and he spent almost 5 million euros to pull it off.
Due to the authentic experience, this project turned into a massive success, and others started following Daniele’s example. The old buildings in various villages were purchased and turned into galleries, restaurants, inns, etc. Furthermore, people all over the world saw value in preserving the older designs, and we see many Airbnb offers that try to hook guests by stating how the authenticity of the older house or room is preserved.