When the Hotel is the Town: Albergo Diffuso in Italy


In the September 2011 issue of National Geographic Traveler, you’ll probably understand why the article called “The Towns Italy Forgot” caught my eye. Not sure what to expect from an article with that title, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s about the growing “albergo diffuso” trend in Italy.

What’s “albergo diffuso,” you ask? Literally translated, it means “dispersed hotel,” but that definition isn’t exactly illuminating. These “hotels” are essentially apartments or small homes throughout a given town that share one central “reception” desk/office in the town, but are more akin to renting an apartment than staying in a hotel. You get all the convenience of hotel services – including housekeeping services and (depending on the property) restaurants or spa services – but far more individual charm.

There’s a nationwide association for these “alberghi diffusi” (the Associazione Nazionale Alberghi Diffusi, usually just called ADI), and combing through last year’s catalog (this year’s isn’t online, sadly), I found several properties that I wanted to highlight. This type of accommodation is ideally-suited to people who want to feel a bit more independent, want their hotels to feel less cookie-cutter, are looking for ways to get outside the main tourist areas of Italy (and don’t mind renting a car to get there), and love historic buildings (that have been lovingly restored).

From the ADI website’s answer to the question, what is an “albergo diffuso:”

Partly a house and partly a hotel, dedicated to those people who do not like hotel stays; in short, this is a new form of hospitality that takes the name of “Albergo Diffuso.” Its main components are distributed in different buildings, all located in the same village/town. [They] satisfy the tourists’ demand of stays in renowned and famous areas and towns, of contact with residents and local people rather than only with other tourists, and of the traditional comforts offered in hotels, such as room service or a restaurant.

Here are 8 “alberghi diffusi” in different parts of Italy. Quoted descriptions are taken from the 2010 Associazone Nazionale Alberghi Diffusi catalog, and the bulleted lists are also from the catalog.

Abruzzo

Sextantio – Santo Stefano di Sessanio

“The Sextantio albergo diffuso is located in the old town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio in the Gran Sasso Monti della Laga National Park, just a few kilometres from the town of L’Aquila. An ideal place for people interested in relaxing, history and culture.”

  • double rooms and suites available
  • 20km from the A25 highway
  • 130km from the Rome airport
  • parking available
  • disabled facilities available
  • park nearby
  • horseback riding nearby
  • restaurant associated with hotel


Basilicata

Le Grotte della Civita – Matera

This was one of the “alberghi diffusi” highlighted in the National Geographic Traveler piece, and it’s not even in the 2010 ADI catalog – so I assume it’s a newer addition to the listings. Rooms of this hotel are in the famous “Sassi di Matera,” the cave dwellings that cover the ancient town’s hills, restored and sparsely furnished with only historically-accurate period pieces.

Le Marche

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Due Campanili Relais – Montemaggiore al Metauro

This was the other “albergo diffuso” highlighted in the article. From the catalog: “In the centre of the village, there is the comfortable 2 Campanili Relais with 27 rooms and 8 suites; the restaurant, located in Palazzo della Rovere, offers a menu dedicated to the local delicalies: for example tartufo or ‘scottona.’ The rest continues in the beauty centre with whirlpool and sauna.”

  • entire apartments available
  • open year-round
  • 16km from the A14 highway, 3km from the S3 highway
  • 60km from the Falconara airport, 64km from the Rimini airport
  • parking available
  • disabled facilities available
  • spa/wellness center services
  • pets permitted
  • park nearby
  • horseback riding nearby
  • golf nearby
  • restaurant associated with the hotel


Molise

Locanda Alfieri – Termoli

“Located on a promontory next to the sea, Locanda Alfieri, with its comfortable rooms and suggestive views, offers a full immersion in the atmosphere of the ancient villane of Termoli; everything is wrapped in comfort and courtly unceremoniousness.”

  • single rooms, double rooms, triple rooms, & quadruple rooms available
  • 40km from the A1 highway
  • 110km from Naples airport, 220km from Rome airport
  • parking available
  • disabled facilities available
  • beach nearby
  • park nearby


Puglia

Vecchia Mottola – Mottola

“The resort consists of 18 flats dotted around the old centre of Mottola, a pleasant little town in the province of Taranto. Guests who come here on holiday can be completely independent, without having to give up the luxury facilities of a hotel. Excellent cuisine.”

  • entire apartments available
  • 1.5km from the A14 highway
  • 55km from Bari airport, 100km from Brindisi airport
  • 30km from Taranto port
  • parking available
  • disabled facilities available
  • beach nearby
  • park nearby
  • golf nearby


Trullidea – Alberbello

“This complex of twenty trullo-type houses offers unusual accommodation, perfect for people who come here to relax and explore the local culture. The size of the trulli varies. They are scattered around the delightful little town of Alberobello, now a Unesco World Heritage Site.”

  • suites & entire apartments available
  • open year-round
  • 20km from the A14 highway
  • 50km from the Bari airport
  • parking available
  • disabled facilities available
  • beach nearby
  • park nearby
  • horseback riding nearby
  • golf nearby
  • outlet shopping nearby


Tuscany

Locanda Senio – Palazzuolo sul Senio

“In the medieval village of Palazzuolo sul Senio the Locanda Senio. Six peaceful bedrooms with ancient furniture and two suites, hospitality and good food immerse the guest in the true serenity. Holidays with walks and cooking courses; relax in the silence of the swimming pool and of health center.”

  • double rooms, suites, & entire apartments available
  • not open year-round
  • 45km from the A14 and A1 highways
  • 85km from Bologna airport, 70km from Florence airport
  • 70km from Ravenna port
  • parking available
  • pets permitted
  • cooking classes & spa/wellness services available
  • swimming pool available
  • park nearby
  • horseback riding nearby
  • golf nearby
  • outlet shopping nearby


Umbria

Castello di Montignano – Massa Martana

“Built in the XII century, Castello di Montignano is unique because it combines the majesty of a castle and the charm of a medieval hamlet. Nowadays an Antique Residence with a luxurious well-being centre, three meeting rooms,
a park with swimming pool, an internal garden and a wine bar.”

  • double rooms & entire apartments available
  • open year-round
  • 40km from the A1 highway
  • 60km from Perugia airport, 110km from Rome airport
  • parking available
  • disabled facilities available
  • spa/wellness services
  • air conditioning
  • swimming pool available
  • park nearby
  • horseback riding nearby
  • golf nearby
  • restaurant associated with the hotel


“Albergo Diffuso” Villages

In addition to the individual “alberghi diffusi” listed here and on the ADI website, there are several villages that are so closely associated with ADI that even if you don’t stay in an “albergo diffuso” in one of these towns you’re likely to have a similar experience. Those villages listed on the ADI site are:

  • Oria
  • Amateur
  • Pietrapertosa
  • Tenno
  • Smerillo
  • Palazzuolo sul Senio
  • Serrungarina
  • Montemaggiore Metauro
  • Semproniano
  • Borgo Pace
  • Voltage
  • Castro Volscian

For more information on “alberghi diffusi”: See the official ADI website

photos all from individual hotel sites; top photo from Sextantio site