Also called a “widespread” or “scattered” hotel, a “hotel diffuso” (albergo diffuso, in Italian) is the name given to a network of accommodations spread over a geographic area.

We recently stayed at one of these properties, which offered a new-to-us concept in hotel design.

Sotto Le Cummerse is an exemplary model, albeit a luxury one. This albergo diffuso is located in Locorotondo, a very small but magical, whitewashed town in Puglia. We will write about our stay in another post but wanted to share what we learned about the hotel diffuso concept and its interesting history.

Kitchen in our duplex suite at Sotto Le Cummerse, a hotel diffuso (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Kitchen in our duplex suite at Sotto Le Cummerse, a hotel diffuso in Locorotondo (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Another suite in the same hotel diffuso (Credit: Sotte Le Commerse)

Another suite in the same hotel diffuso (Credit: Sotte Le Commerse)

Compared to conventional hotels (typically having multiple guestrooms one location), a hotel diffuso is comprised of guestrooms spread in pre-existing buildings over a small village or town, or even scattered across a rural area in the countryside. They are often described as horizontal rather than vertical models of accommodations—with alleyways instead of corridors.

Under the auspices of a single management structure, the entity provides centralized, round-the-clock services for guests (e.g. booking, reception, breakfast, room cleaning, making dinner/tour reservations, suggesting activities in the surrounding area). Common use areas (e.g. an office, breakfast room, etc.) are located nearby, within a reasonable distance of the rooms occupied by guests.

Trulli Holiday Resort reception office in downtown Alberobello, another diffuso hotel (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Trulli Holiday Resort reception office in downtown Alberobello, another diffuso hotel  in Puglia, Italy (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Although there may be identifying signage, the hotel diffuso is embedded in its environment—both architecturally and culturally—and might be mistaken for an ordinary residence.

This type of hotel promotes sustainability because it has minimal impact on the complexion of a community. Efforts are made to decorate the exteriors and interiors in a style consistent with similar residences nearby. During a stay at a hotel diffuso, next-door neighbors tend to be permanent residents of that locale rather than other tourists. These include children, older people and pets.

Backstory

The concept of a hotel diffuso was born in Italy. After a 1976 earthquake in the town of Friuli, abandoned houses were renovated for this purpose with post-earthquake relief funds. This region still has the largest has the largest number of hotels diffusi.

First developed by Professor Dall’Ara (a tourism marketing professor), the concept has spread to other countries in Europe. In towns with historic centers, the novel model has transformed formerly deserted or unused buildings to make them habitable and economically viable. It also helps overcome community resistance to the creation of new accommodations in popular tourist areas.

Professor Dall'Ara, creator of the concept of alberghi diffusi

Professor Dall’Ara, creator of the concept of alberghi diffusi

How to find a hotel diffuso

A national association (National Association of Alberghi Diffusi) maintains a searchable online directory of properties of properties in Italy, listed by region, which can help interested tourists find these accommodations (see right sidebar on the site).

In short, the hotel diffuso combines the authenticity of an AirBnB with the creature comforts of a full-service hotel.

We couldn’t have had a more pleasant stay in Rocolotondo and hope to find other opportunities to live locally at socially-minded properties like this one when we travel.


Note:

  • albergo (hotel, singular); alberghi (hotels, plural)
  • diffuso (scattered, singular); diffusi (scattered, plural)