The Town That Became a Hotel

Ancient Italian villages are being turned into a new kind of hotel, where the rooms are spread out across town and you share the streets with residents. One of the best of these alberghi diffusi is Sextantio, in the Abruzzi mountains.

For some, the temptation might be to build even bigger, but Daniele is happy with the size of Sextantio. He's also helped the area government implement a plan for sustainable tourism development to protect the character of the region. His next major goals go beyond Santo Stefano, and he's started work on alberghi diffusi in six other nearly abandoned towns in the Abruzzi, Molise, and Basilicata regions along Italy's mountainous spine and in the rural south.

Daniele and his team have made the most headway on a project in Matera, a city in Basilicata that was built more than two millennia ago in a deep ravine honeycombed with caves that are called i sassi in Italian. People lived in the caves for hundreds of years until authorities relocated the population to a modern city on a plateau next to the ravine in the mid-1900s. In recent years, however, the government has poured money into restoring the cave homes to make them livable again, in part as an effort to draw tourists. And people have begun moving into the caves as they have been linked to the electrical grid.

Daniele is renovating several homes to open as a hotel this year. Most rooms still retain the tufa walls of the caves and have little in the way of natural light beyond the first room. "They might be far from the canon of what's considered beautiful in Italy," says Daniele of places like Santo Stefano and Matera. "But ever since I was a child, I thought this was a beautiful and worthy part of the country."

And in the next issue of BT...

We'll be spotlighting five ancient villages in Italy that have been turned completely into amazing hotels.


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