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“Albergo Diffuso”: The Italian model for rural revitalization and sustainable tourism development
Source:GFHS | Author: GFHS | Published time: 2021-06-17 | 3338 Views | Share:

--Exclusive interview with Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara, President,

National Association of Alberghi Diffusi (ADI), Italy


By Dr. Ralph Wahnschafft, Senior Advisor on Sustainable Development Policies
Global Forum on Human Settlements

Editor's note: "Albergo Diffuso" was born in the rural areas of Italy. This concept describes village rehabilitation and revitalization projects, in which abandoned houses and other buildings are refurbished in aesthetic and authentic ways at the regional level to welcome visitors and tourists and generate income from "soft" forms of individual "slow" tourism. There are over 250 initiatives of this type in Italy and other southern European countries. Unlike Castelfalfi and other Resorts, these initiatives are located in villages where a community of residents still exists, the project is local, the philosophy is based on traditional hospitality, the managers live in the place and even the gastronomy is local. Sometimes the management is based on some form of cooperative, in which a group of homeowners comes together.

"Albergo diffuso"
is a unique concept of hospitality, made in Italy, different from popular ones, such as hotels or resorts; was created to develop tourism in villages and historic centers without changing their characteristics. It does not require any building, just organize what is already there. It is also translated as “scattered hotel', meaning a facility that has a central reception and restaurant building, and a variety of physically distributed but centrally administered and serviced holiday rooms or apartments (located within repurposed traditional village buildings nearby).

Professor Giancarlo Dall'Ara
is the President of the Italian Albergo-Diffusi Association, of the National Association of Small Museums, and head of Chinese Friendly Italy. He is an "old hand" in Albergo-Diffusi, a distinguished advocate of this type of business. His specializations also include hospitality projects for tourist destinations, groups of private operators, museums, and tourist offices; territorial tourism development plans; creation of networks of operators; marketing projects for public and private operators; design of diffused hotels and other models of diffused hospitality. After having developed an original hospitality model, he is committed to exporting it from Japan to Albania, Georgia, Switzerland, China ... He has written several books, mostly published by Franco Angeli. He is a major expert on the Chinese tourism market, head of the "Chinese Friendly Italy" network, is editor of the White Paper on Chinese Tourism in Italy, and is one of the people who have contributed most to promoting Chinese tourism in Italy.



GFHS: Italy’s National Association of AlberghiDiffusi (literally translated as ‘scattered hotels’) has won the World Travel Market Global Award in 2010. This reflects growing global recognition of your own work in developing the Albergo Diffuso hotel concept throughout Italy and its success in revitalizing rural communities. What is an Albergo Diffuso? What are its main features?

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara
:  In many countries in Europe, as well as elsewhere, hamlets and small villages in remote rural regions are facing great challenges. The local rural population is aging or emigrating, and economic prospects are in decline, in spite of the fact that many of the locations are located in regions with great scenic beauty or natural attractions. The concept of the Albergo Diffuso was first developed in Italy in the 1980s. It is a new way to refurbish and reuse pre-existing local and traditional buildings for use as hotels and tourist accommodation.

Ordinary Hotel VS Albergo Diffuso  Photo by: Yasushi Watanabe

: How does the Albergo Diffuso hotel concept contribute to more sustainable tourism? 

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara
: In modern mass tourism, hotel chains all around the world offer standardized facilities and services. The Albergo Diffuso concept takes an entirely different approach. It creates and markets tourist accommodation and tourist experiences that emphasize the uniqueness of each locality. Scattered hotel rooms and apartments facilitate social interaction and cooperation, including between locals and visitors. The Albergo Diffuso also creates new small business and employment opportunities for local communities, and it advances the conservation of built heritage and culture in rural areas and small towns. Essentially, the Albergo Diffuso is a concept which brings out the tradition of human hospitality, in Italy, as well as elsewhere.   



Albergo Diffuso Mannois, Orosei

Attracting tourist visitors to rural areas can pose formidable challenges. What are key strategies for marketing decentralized tourism in rural areas and AlberghiDiffusi?

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara
: I have given many lectures and published many articles on tourism marketing and related strategies. In many countries, we can observe and support new emerging trends, also called “slow tourism”. More people (re)appreciate unique touristic experiences in rural areas.  Of course, improving local infrastructure, facilitating local transport and access, and providing attractions and opportunities for activities are also important.


Sunrise awakens Matera, a centuries-old town currently enjoying its own new dawn thanks to the pioneering
albergodiffusoor dispersed hotel

GFHS: What are other important features?

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara:
Concepts and terms such as “guest”, “sustainability”, “lively community”, “hamlet lifestyle”, and “hospitality”, they all have a special meaning both in my way of thinking tourism, and in the Albergo Diffuso model. In the Albergo Diffuso environment, hamlet alleys are becoming the hotel hallways, and social interaction between residents and visitors is easy and encouraged. My request to foreign journalists is not to translate the name of “Albergo Diffuso”, as it differs from all the other forms of hospitality, such as B&B, hotel, holiday house, tourist resort, or agritourism.

As I wrote in the Albergo Diffuso handbook, AD is an entirely Italian adventure, representing the hospitality culture of our country and the "horizontal" lifestyle made of relationships and communities typical of Italian hamlets; while traditional hotels offer a "vertical" lifestyle, the life of “the rush culture”, characterizing big cities worldwide.



GFHS: Who can be the owners of an Albergo Diffuso?  Are there different ownership models?  What are important guidelines for the management of an Albergo Diffuso?

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara
: There is no standard ownership model. In some locations, significant investments were needed to develop a successful local scattered hotel business. However, the Albergo Diffuso is always in private ownership, including cooperative local business associations. Strong local leadership, municipal support, and public-private partnerships are important preconditions for successful local tourism development.


GFHS: Operating tourism in rural areas may require public investments in local infrastructure such as water and energy supply, waste water treatment, transportation, communication, and other facilities and services. What is the role of the local municipality? What are important sources of public funding support? 

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara
: Local initiative and leadership is indeed crucial, as is technical and financial support. Manyyears ago, I created the Associazione Nazionale degli Alberghi Diffusi (Alberghi Diffusi National Association), which more recentlydevelopedinto the Associazione Internazionale degli Alberghi Diffusi (Alberghi Diffusi International Association). The objective is the facilitation of local, regional, national and international sharing of experiences, and to protect the scattered hotel model while enhancing it and its brand.


Wellness at the Locanda degli Elfi, Albergo Diffuso in Val Maira


GFHS: Many industrialized as well as developing countries are facing the same challenges of rural to urban migration, resulting in depressed local economies in rural areas. Are there other countries that have adopted the AlberghiDiffusi concept and that have benefitted from your advice? 

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara
: Indeed, many countries have studied and started to adopt the concept of Albergo Diffuso.We have received requests from countries, such as Ireland, Albania, France, Slovakia, Serbia, and San Marino. In most cases, they were scattered hospitality networks or simple projects. Today, there are already a growing number of “AlberghiDiffusi”-style collaborative scattered and integrated hotels, including in Australia, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States.


Albergo diffuso in Toscana 

The Global Forum on Human Settlements ( has many partners in developing countries, including China. Where do you see potentials for successfully replicating the AlberghoDiffuso concept?

Professor Giancarlo Dall’Ara:
In recent years I have had various opportunities for professional communication and interaction with interested business communities in China. I am indeed very impressed with the rapid economic progress that has been made in many areas in recent years. China has outstanding natural and cultural heritage, and there are countless opportunities to further develop sustainable domestic tourism, together with heritage conservation.  I strongly believe in the future development of Albergo Diffuso in Asia and in China in particular.   

GFHS: Thank you very much. All best wishes for continued success of your work.


Local life at Albergo Diffuso  Photo by Megumi Nakahashi