The best of Italian local living: the ‘Alberghi Diffusi’

Looking at this photo, you can almost instantly be transported back in time and be left wondering exactly where your time machine landed you! This is the kind of Italy that most tourists will never get to experience or some don’t even know that it still exists. So how do you get to enjoy ‘local living’ in towns where time seems to have stood still?

Welcome to the wonderful concept of ‘Alberghi Diffusi’ or literally translated ‘scattered or spread out hotels’. It’s an innovative concept of hospitality, a kind of home from home that offers accommodation totally immersed in local Italian culture and daily living. Its creator, Mr Dall’Ara wanted to find a sustainable way to save many historic towns and villages that had been abandoned or were in disrepair and that’s when he came up with the idea of the Albergo Diffuso.

The principle is that rooms are decorated in an authentic and local style, are scattered throughout different buildings within the town but overseen by one manager. A traditional breakfast might be served at a local cafe’ or in the kitchen of one of the local houses or even delivered to your room.

Alberghi Diffusi

Personally I couldn’t think of a better way of enjoying my stay than having contact with the local population and having the authentic experience of living within their community. And of course these fantastic places don’t just offer travellers a door into a traditional way of life, but are also a way of promoting sustainable tourism, as it’s indeed more cost effective to reconvert an existing room or structure than build a new hotel.

There are currently more than 40 official Alberghi Diffusi in Italy and over 100 more are being planned. Here are two of my favourite alberghi diffusi in Italy, whose photos I have also shown above:

Sextantio Albergo Diffuso in the fortified medieval village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio deep in the Abruzzo region and

Santo Stefano

Le Grotte della Civita in Matera in the southern region of Basilicata. This is a truly unique hotel in a very special location, set in the UNESCO listed town of Matera. Its old quarters are built into and over limestone caves and interwoven by narrow cobblestone streets. This remarkable hotel consists of 18 cave rooms and a stay here is an experience hard to describe and definitely one to go on your must-do list!

If on your next trip to Italy, you truly want to be part of local life and get closer to a more authentic and simpler way of living, then I highly recommend you stay at an albergo diffuso. And if you should need any further information or advice about this, please get in touch!

3 thoughts on “The best of Italian local living: the ‘Alberghi Diffusi’

  1. Thanks, this is worth knowing! Also in our local village in Italy there is a similar restaurant: like an ‘open house’. You have to book in advance and then up to 10 people (but as few as 4) all eat around a large table- no menu choice: that is at the discretion of the cook, the home owner. I have found similar in Portugal too and it has always been a memorable meal.

    • It sounds like a wonderful idea Alice! It’s probably a lot more convivial, the locals probably pride themselves in providing better service and food! Mr Dall’Ara, who was a marketing expert definitely hit on a great idea!

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