In Italy, a new model for historical preservation aims to restore the character of medieval villages while reviving local economies.
Development company Sextantio Albergo Diffuso's first project was the Santo Stefano di Sessanio Hotel in L'Aquila. There, a Middle Ages villages with a landscape and rich architectural and agricultural heritage lay dormant, quietly crumbling after past efforts at courting tourist dollars had taken their toll. In contrast to past exploits, Albergo Diffuso's primary goal was to maintain the historical integrity of the place, believing that an honest representation of history and culture would pique the interest of travelers (it doesn't hurt that David Chipperfield Architects is an adviser on the project). The owners even aim to use individual rooms for their original purposes; however, what is now the hotel reception was once a pig sty. Still, we laud their efforts. For booking information, visit Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
Above: The most dilapidated parts of the building were the wood framing and attic lofts, which required structural reinforcements.
Above: Linens and bed covers were made of new materials using traditional techniques, often replicated from period drawings and archival photographs.
Above: The "Alchemist" room is a romantic getaway that can be tricky to find; the path to the room requires a long and winding jaunt through village alleyways.
Above: Fortunately, any "improvements" made to the structure over the last century were superficial—such as thin partition walls and low-quality plaster—and required only modest removal efforts. Time, however, had taken a greater toll, and deteriorated elements like stone paving blocks were restored using local materials and medieval techniques.
Above: Where walls were crumbling beyond use, they were repaired with plaster and whitewashed lime.
Above: Where modern comforts were added—such as toilets and bathtubs—minimalist contemporary designs were chosen. Here, a Duravit bathtub designed by Philipe Starck.
Above: The hotel offers a variety of dining rooms, all of which make use of the ancient Mediterranean cultivations that still grow here—including spelt, lentils, saffron, and dill.
Above: The hotel employs local residents to revive "ancient and outdated female manual skills" via the region's traditional crafts and sells the wares in a market offering only handmade goods. Using authentic, centuries-old machinery, offerings include woven blankets and carpets and knitted sweaters and scarves.
Above: The dimensions of doors and windows were left unchanged, as were the internal layouts and divisions of rooms.
Looking for more inspiration? See 241 images of farmhouse style in our gallery of rooms and spaces.