Albergo Diffuso: the hotel model that is rescuing the villages

Albergo Diffuso: the hotel model that is rescuing the villages

On May 7, 1976, newspapers around the world announced terrible news: the northeastern Italian region of Friuli had been devastated by an earthquake. More than five hundred people died and 100,000 were left homeless. The most affected localities were small mountain villages.

At the time, rural areas in the mountainous areas of Italy were already emptying out as new generations moved to the cities to study and lead a more modern lifestyle. It was becoming increasingly difficult to live in these places because of the lack of services and communications. The earthquake was the straw that broke the camel's back.

The situation of depopulation was critical, so they began to look for solutions. That's what led Giancarlo Dall'Ara, an Italian hotel marketing consultant, to stroll through the streets of Maranzanis, in Friuli, one spring afternoon in the early 1980s.

The small village, enveloped by the Alpine wilderness, exuded a sense of abandonment and charm. Many of its houses had been destroyed by the earthquake and, although there were still a few elderly people left, most of the houses that had survived were empty.

Giancarlo Dall'Ara was convinced that there had to be a sustainable way to save the mountain villages through tourism. At first, it seemed to him that the Maranzanis area was unsuitable for a hotel. The natural beauty of the area was obvious and it had potential, but the feeling of poverty and emptiness in that place would put anyone off.

So he came up with the simple but ingenious concept of Albergo Diffuso, which literally translates as "scattered hotel." Instead of building a hotel to attract tourists or tearing down buildings, an Albergo Diffuso opts to rehabilitate abandoned houses into hotel rooms.

These rooms, which retain an authentic, local style, are scattered throughout different buildings in the city, but no more than 150 meters from the reception. Like a vacation apartment, they allow tourists to immerse themselves in village life, but at the same time offer the basic services of a hotel. For example, breakfast can be delivered to the room itself and at the reception there is a cafeteria, stores and attendants available to help with recommendations or reservations.

The Albergo Diffuso formula has proven to be a successful initiative for sustainable development for many reasons:

1.It offers an authentic experience.

It meets the needs of a sophisticated tourist class that prefers to live authentic experiences that make them connect with the spirit of the place. For example, tourists do not live mixed with other tourists, but in contact with the local people. In turn, by staying in buildings that are the same as those inhabited by the villagers, travelers can enjoy their stay as one of the community.

2. It contributes to territorial development.

An Albergo Diffuso contributes to sustainable territorial development by taking advantage of and giving new life to empty spaces, while revitalizing the local economy. Some of the objectives of this initiative are to develop a network of synergies between local resources and to promote local gastronomy and handicrafts.

3. Preserves the environment

By not constructing large hotel buildings, an Albergo Diffuso does not have a negative impact on the environment. In addition, it preserves the landscapes by respecting the local architecture of the villages.

4.Diversifies the cultural encounter

This initiative is proposed outside the major tourist circuits, with the aim of diversifying the offer. In this way, it facilitates access to a greater number of cultural and natural destinations that would otherwise remain outside the tourist experience.

5.Heritage preservation

Albergo Duffuso favors the rehabilitation of the architectural, historical and social heritage of the villages. It is a unique style that expresses the identity of the territory and enhances its value.

The problem of empty villages is not only found in Italy. For this reason, Albergo Diffuso has already crossed borders and has begun to be established in countries such as Ecuador, Japan, France, Portugal and Albania. Sometimes, a good idea like the one Giancarlo Dall'Ara had can make a significant change.

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