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A New Italian Renaissance in Abruzzo

Roberto Badin The ancient stone buildings typical of Santo Stefano di Sessanio and the Albergo Diffuso, in Abruzzi.

Photo: Roberto Badin

On Monday, April 6, 2009, an earthquake reported at magnitude 6.3 occurred with an epicenter near L'Aquila, Abruzzo. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people and aid workers throughout Italy. Travelers planning to visit Abruzzo are advised to contact their hotels before departure for any news of closures or delays.

The town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio (population 116) in the mountainous central Italian region of Abruzzi may seem an unlikely place to find a boutique hotel. The village's heyday was between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when it was an important wool-trading hub. As the demand for wool declined, so did Santo Stefano. Now, under Italian-Swedish philosopher and preservationist Daniele Elow Kihlgren, the town is undergoing a $5.1 million restoration. He recently transformed a handful of 15th-century buildings into the Albergo Diffuso Santo Stefano di Sessanio, a rustic-chic 30-room inn (14 more rooms will open this summer), complete with a weaver's atelier and herbalist. In a nod to the city's traditions, the emphasis throughout the hotel is on local craftsmanship, from the olive-oil soaps in the bathrooms right down to the handwoven bedcovers colored with Abruzzese plant dyes. 39-085/497-2324; www.sextantio.it; doubles from $178.

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