Wineries and agriturismo accommodations have long drawn travelers to the Italian countryside. But a more recent development is bringing travelers to Italy's once-abandoned hamlets. Other countries are taking note.
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A growing phenomenon that has been percolating in Italy for the past 20 years offers the kind of authentic experience many of today’s travelers seek. Even before Airbnb existed, the albergo diffuso concept has provided visitors with a way to live like a local. Often translated as scattered hotel, this model’s fundamental principle is to restore abandoned buildings in ancient villages and repurpose them as tourist lodgings. The concept allows travelers to embed within the community — without overwhelming its residents.
There are currently 200 places calling themselves alberghi diffusi (the plural form) in Italy, but the Associazione Nazionale di Alberghi Diffusi only recognizes 100 of those.
In recent years, the albergo diffuso model has started to spread beyond Italy’s borders. About 30 official alberghi diffusi have opened in other parts of the world, including nearby San Marino and far-off Japan. Germany and the Italian-speaking Ticino region of Switzerland will both open their first alberghi diffusi next year. And the founder of the model, Giancarlo Dall’Ara, recently checked out potential projects taking shape in Albania and Kosovo.
“The interest is very high,” said Dall’Ara, “because it is a real development engine. The model of using empty houses and generating new opportunities for young people and promoting sustainable tourism could be very important, especially in countries that have small villages with the same problems (empty houses, elderly residents, few young people…).”
By providing travelers with more excuses to explore beyond big cities, alberghi diffusi preserve heritage architecture, inject economic development into rural areas, and offer an antidote to overtourism.
— Laura Powell, Skift Luxury Editor
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Skift Luxury Editor Laura Powell [[email protected]] curates the New Luxury newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Tuesday.
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Photo credit: Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita is an albergo diffuso located in the Sassi di Matera — a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy's Basilicata region. Sextantio