I had never heard of the term albergo diffuso until I discovered that I was staying in one a few years ago in Italy. What I thought to be an agriturismo was in actuality an albergo diffuso. You’re probably thinking, “What is an albergo diffuso anyway?”
Loosely translated the term means “scattered hotel.” I was surprised to learn that it is not a new concept, but rather has existed since the early 80s. The idea began in Italy as a way of providing accommodations to tourists in small villages and towns. The rooms usually are situated in a number of different buildings near each other. They do not necessarily have to be on the same property.
The intent of an albergo diffuso is to offer the traveler an authentic experience of living in a village and having contact with the local people instead of only with other travelers. It also serves the community by adding hotel accommodations at a cost considerably less than building a new hotel. The rooms are typically decorated in a way to maintain the local flavor, and meals are usually served with the same goal.
The organization known as the National Association of Alberghi Diffusi has set up criteria for these accommodations. Currently there are more than 40 of these alberghi diffusi in Italy with plans for 100 additional properties. Here are some of the guidelines for an albergo diffuso.
• For the purpose of protecting the historic architecture.
• Zero tolerance for “any new building that interrupts the integrity of the landscape
• Must maintain the original use, form and materials of the original structure
• Replacement materials must come from the local area
• As much as possible retain traces of life uncovered in the building as this is a symbol of village life
• Furnishings should keep with traditions of the area and be made by local artisans to maintain authenticity
• Use local material to reflect the colors and textures identified with the particular village
• Maintain the minimalist concept in bathrooms to not betray the
• Vital to the concept is not to add new construction
I have had the pleasure of staying in an albergo diffuso in the very small village of Colle d’Anchise in the region of Molise. This is the village of my paternal grandparents and I frankly would not have thought that a town so small would even have a hotel.
Antonella Baratta, a distant cousin of mine who lives there told me about it, and after emailing the owner, Signor Michele, in Italian, I secured reservations here.
This was one of the best places I have stayed in Italy and the cost was unbelievably low. From the size of the rooms, the beauty of the property, the friendliness of the staff and the wonderful regional food at the restaurant I cannot say enough about La Piana dei Mulini.
In fact I am staying there again in a few weeks when I return to Colle d’Anchise to visit my Italian family, so stay tuned for updates and more photos.
If you have the opportunity to stay at an albergo diffuso on your next visit to Italy, I would highly recommend it.I guarantee you will not be disappointed.