Sex­tanxio Al­berqo Dif­fuso, Italy

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De­spite its pic­turesque, post­card-per­fect set­ting high in the Apen­nine Moun­tains about 150 kilo­me­tres north­east of Rome, the for­ti­fied me­dieval vil­lage of Santo Ste­fano di Ses­sanio was near aban­doned af­ter the col­lapse of the area’s once lu­cra­tive wool trade. The hill­top labyrinth of cob­ble­stone al­leys, cen­turies-old arch­ways and bell tow­ers be­came a ghost town, but it held so much char­ac­ter it caught the eye of Ital­ianSwede phi­lan­thropist Daniele Kihlgren in the 1990s. Kihlgren em­barked on an epic con­ser­va­tion and restora­tion plan, trans­form­ing aban­doned homes into a 30-room ho­tel like no other, bring­ing the vil­lage back to life in the process.

The sim­ple de­sign of the rooms and suites that are scat­tered around the hill­top hide the painstak­ing re­cre­ation of au­then­tic her­itage spa­ces us­ing orig­i­nal ar­chi­tec­tural ma­te­ri­als and an­tiques sourced from the Abruzzo moun­tains. Some rooms come with tubs and open fire­places, most have a pri­vate en­trance, and views over the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga Na­tional Park.

But Kihlgren didn’t just cre­ate a ho­tel — he cre­ated a buzzing town with art gal­leries and hand­i­craft shops where you can buy lace, wo­ven fab­rics and ar­ti­sanal soaps, or pick up pro­vi­sions such as honey, cheese and cured meats. Sex­tan­tio Al­bergo Dif­fuso also of­fers three restau­rants: Lo­canda Sotto Gli Archi, which re-cre­ates age-old Abruzzo dishes us­ing lo­cally grown crops; Il Canti­none, a place to in­dulge in small plates and good wines; and Tisane­ria, a tea­room where brews are made us­ing herbs, with home­made cakes on the side. san­toste­fano.sex­tan­tio.it.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT Step back in time at Sex­tan­tio Al­bergo Dif­fuso; the restau­rants use tra­di­tional recipes; lo­cal cus­toms are recog­nised; the rooms have been painstak­ingly ren­o­vated.

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