Ever wondered what is in the destiny of the thousands of nearly abandoned hilltop villages in southern Italy?
While some remain in shambles as consequence of earthquakes and mass exodus by the young and ambitious, others go through amazing transformations thanks to people like Daniele Kihlgren.
For anyone looking to be immersed in another time period, Sextantio Albergo Diffuso is located only hour and a half drive from Rome and a truly authentic cultural experience.
SEXTANTIO ALBERGO DIFFUSO
Kihlgren discovered almost-deserted Santo Stefano di Sessano in the Apennines by chance, but refused to leave it like he found it. Charmed by the dreamlike feeling and potential of the remote town, he decided to purchase the abandoned houses and turn them into a whole new concept. That day, the idea of an albergo diffuso was born.
An albergho diffuso, literally translated as “scattered hotel,” is a fairly recent and original hospitality model. “It’s about restoration, not renovation. I had a unique opportunity to save one of the last authentic places in Italy from the grip of cement” says Kihlgren. His hotel, Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, is comprised of two dozen or so small houses scattered throughout a town in different locations. Check-in can happen at the local café, locals can become friends, and the food is certainly homemade and of indisputable quality. According to him, living within a community, rather than around it, enables guests to assimilate to the local culture and feel like they belong.
The most outstanding part about this model is that it stays respectfully true to the culture and customs of the locals. “We avoid the over-use of contemporary elements. We used native objects, often stored in museums, and ancient and traditional local materials,” says the entrepreneur.
The preservation of small windows, the dim light, the uneven floors and the choice of single details, such as handmade soaps made from olive oil help maintain the archaic soul of the village. Thanks to his integrity to the culture and generous involvement with the remaining residents, alberghi diffusi became a successful way to keep the spirit of these disappearing cultures alive. This concept has now emerged in other parts of Italy, quickly spreading to Spain and Croatia as well.
This is an ideal concept for independent travellers, who prefer living next door to locals and choose to integrate themselves with the traditional Italian way of living. At Sextantio, cooking and bread making classes are offered with the help of a local housewife. Guests can also learn to prepare pizza or bread using ancient and traditional wooden instruments. An authentic wood-burning oven from the XVI century closes the experience with a golden key.
In addition to the conventional beauty and atmosphere of the hotel, their private dining room, Locanda Sotto gli Archi, serves Abruzzese cuisine in a rustic 16th-century building. Chefs focus mainly on dishes and techniques from medieval times, adding an extra flair to an already incredible experience.