Roberto Badin

A little village in Abruzzi gets a $5 million-dollar facelift and a new boutique hotel.

June 15, 2009

On Monday, April 6, 2009, an earthquake reported at magnitude 6.3occurred with an epicenter near L'Aquila, Abruzzo. Our thoughts andprayers are with the people and aid workers throughout Italy. Travelersplanning to visit Abruzzo are advised to contact their hotels beforedeparture 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.

Albergo Diffuso Santo Stefano di Sessanio

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. But as part of a $6.5 million overhaul, Italian-Swedish philosopher and preservationist Daniele Elow Kihlgren recently turned a handful of 15th-century buildings into a rustic-chic 44-room inn, complete with a weaver’s atelier and an herbalist. In a nod to the area’s traditions, the emphasis throughout the Albergo is on local craftsmanship, from the olive-oil soaps in the bathrooms to the hand-woven bedcovers colored with native plant dyes. In creating the inn’s restaurant, “town elders” and an anthropologist were consulted for historical—and gastronomical—accuracy.

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