Albergo diffuso: An alternative form of hospitality
“Buildings located in historic areas are given a second life as they welcome visitors eager to learn about and experience local culture. This is the albergo diffuso, an Italian concept that combines the very old with the contemporary.
An albergo diffuso is a type of accommodation that offers the services of a traditional hotel along with a space that is like a rented private home. One of the special features of this Italian concept is its horizontal structure, which spreads the hotel services over several buildings. For example, the guest rooms and apartments may be located on different streets in the same neighbourhood, while the reception area is located in location X, the restaurant in location Y and other services in location Z, all within a 200-metre radius.
International publications have sometimes described the concept as a hotel-village.
Another distinctive feature of the albergo diffuso is the age of the buildings that compose it. In fact, one of the goals of the concept is to repurpose abandoned buildings, houses and even monuments. The idea is not to build anything new, but to reuse.
The guidelines of the albergo diffuso model respect the values of sustainable development in many respects:
- Promote local culture: one reason visitors select this type of accommodation is to enjoy an authentic local experience.
- Stimulate the local economy: the creation of an albergo diffuso encourages one or more homeowners to participate in an organization that is usually a cooperative and supports the development of small businesses working in traditional sectors like handicrafts and food preparation.
- Protect the environment: preserving existing buildings and giving them a second life helps safeguard the area’s history and limits the environmental damage that could be caused by new construction.
This type of hospitality is also reminiscent of the old European tradition of hosting tourists in homes.
An increasingly structured concept
To be able to call itself an albergo diffuso, an accommodation must meet several conditions, summarized as follows:
- The idea must be launched by local stakeholders
- Hotel services (reception, restaurant, etc.) must be provided
- There must be a sole management entity: a single entrepreneur or any other efficient form of association, with a cooperative being the most commonly used form
- There must be a minimum of seven rooms, located within 200 metres of each other and made available for a period of at least nine years
- The town or village where the albergo diffuso is located must offer a minimum of services such as a pharmacy, grocery store, etc.
- The albergo diffuso must take root in a lively, welcoming community that is open to sharing experiences with visitors.”